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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: December 2009

8 - Association of Southeast Asian Nations–China Free Trade Agreement



There have been, arguably, too many regional free trade agreements (hereinafter ‘FTAs’ or ‘RTAs’) in Asia. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)–China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA), albeit only half-materialized, is certainly one of these many that have caught most of the attention. Starting with a Framework Agreement signed in November 2002, it aims to create, by 2010, the third largest free trade area in the world after the EU and NAFTA. The parties have completed negotiations on trade in goods and services as well as on dispute resolution, and are now working on how to implement the FTA fully and tackle certain sensitive issues. There is already a growing body of literature on the economic and geopolitical dimensions of ACFTA even though discussions on its legal aspects are still in the nascent stage. This chapter is an attempt to explore the various legal issues concerning the ACFTA, including mainly:

(a) the tariff reduction arrangement under ACFTA;

(b) the investment;

(c) the services;

(d) some contentious trade law issues in ACFTA, including rules of origin and contingency protection policies;

(e) dispute settlement under ACFTA; and

(f) the legal nature of ACFTA and its impact on the legal relations concerning the rights and obligations of the parties under ACFTA.

Why are these issues important? The chapter starts with an introduction to the negotiations and conclusion of the relevant ACFTA instruments.

Additional Sources
Agata, Antkiewicz and John, Whalley, ‘China's New Regional Trade Agreements’ (2005) 28(10) Journal of World Trade1539–57.
Cordenillo, Raul L., ‘The Economic Benefits to Association of Southeast Asian Nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations–China Free Trade Area (Association of Southeast Asian Nations–China Free Trade Agreement)’, Studies Unit of the Bureau for Economic Integration, Association of Southeast Asian Nations secretariat, 18 January 2005, at
Lee, Hiro, Roland-Holst, David and Mensbrugghe, Dominique, ‘China's Emergence in East Asia under Alternative Trading Agreements’ (2004) 15(4) Journal of Asian Economics697–712.
Sussangkarn, Chalongphob, ‘The Emergence of China and Association of Southeast Asian Nations Revitalization’, paper presented at the Annual World Bank Conference on Development Economics-Europe, Brussels, Belgium, 10–11 May 2004. Available at$File/SUSSANGKARN.PDF.
Tongzon, Jose L., ‘Association of Southeast Asian Nations-China Free Trade Area: A Bane or Boon for Association of Southeast Asian Nations Countries?’ (2005) 28(2) World Economy191–210.
Wang, Jiangyu, ‘The International Legal Personality of Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Legal Nature of the China–Association of Southeast Asian Nations FTA’ in John Wong, Zou Keyuan and Zeng Huaqun (eds.), China-Association of Southeast Asian Nations Relations: Economic and Legal Dimensions (Singapore: World Scientific, 2006).
Wang, Tieya, Guojifa [International Law] (Beijing: Falü Chuban [Law Press], 2004).
Whalley, John, ‘China in the World Trading System’, paper presented at the CESifo Economic Studies Conference on Understanding the Chinese Economy, CESifo Conference Centre, Munich, 10–11 June 2005. Available at
,WTO, World Trade Report 2003 (Geneva: WTO Publications, 2003).