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Asean plus China: The first eleven

• The venue of China-Asean Expo in Nanning,  Guangxi, China

 Holding hands the Asean-style, media participants from the regional grouping hoarsely belted out the familiar tune of "Rasa Sayang" the night they bade farewell to their Chinese host in Nanning early October.

The "feel good" atmosphere capped a week-long programme of interviews and field studies in Guangdong and Guangxi aimed at strengthening China-Asean relations.

An excited Asean participant – probably a football fan – said, with China, the 10- member Asean could form a formidable team, which would qualify for the World Cup. It was Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao who suggested the gathering, called, ‘Third China-Asean Media Cooperation Seminar and Interview Tour.’

• Nanning International Conference
and Exhibition Center.

The host was People's Daily, China's largest newspaper with a daily circulation of more than two million. Most participants represented government information agencies and leading national newspapers.

Meanwhile, the fourth edition of the China-Asean Expo was held in late October in Nanning, Guangxi. The annual event, first proposed by China, was held in conjunction with China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit.



Asean turns to GCC
as it struggles to integrate
Asean and the Gulf states discussed issues ranging from nuclear energy management to tourism and investment during a meeting of foreign ministers from Asean and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly late September.

The meeting, co-chaired by the Thai Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, agreed to strengthen co-operation over a wide range of sectors between the two regional groupings.

The two regions have been linked culturally and economically for a long time but this has not been developed to create more benefits. Prince Saud Al-Faisal invited more construction firms from Asean to invest in the GCC as there were plenty of such projects in the Gulf.

The cooperation between the GCC and Asean could also benefit the domestic affairs of Asean members such as the Philippines, which received assistance from Gulf states in the Organisation of Islamic Conference to secure peace talks with the Moro separatists.

The GCC is made up of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman , Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait. The GCC is intensively integrated in many aspects with plans to have a common market and a single currency by 2010, and has had a Joint Defence Council since 2000, while Asean hopes to transform itself into a real community by 2015.


deal on a slow boat

The 27-member European Union has been urging Asean to fasttrack negotiations for a free trade agreement as European businesses worry about
competition from the United States and elsewhere.

They have taken note of an FTA between Singapore and the United States that gives the US "an advantage with requirements above WTO requirements which are not available to Europe and European businesses".

The EU delegate during their visit to Vietnam in early October asks the communist government not to advance Korea and India ahead of the European Union. Trade between the EU and Asean stood at around $141 billion in 2005, according to data compiled by the Asean secretariat.

The FTA between the EU and Asean would likely exclude Myanmar, whose military junta violently cracked down on Buddhist monks and other protesters.

Talks are expected to start early 2008, once and if the member states of each side have expressed their proposals to support the negotiations. Asean has declared itself a free-trade area but has yet to forge a free-trade agreement as a bloc with any external trade partner. It is negotiating free-trade pacts with China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

The EU has already wrapped up freetrade talks with South America's Mercosur group: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. The union is preparing to open talks with the Gulf Cooperation Council. The Gulf members are the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.


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