ASEAN stands for Association of Southeast Asian Nations, was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by the Founding Fathers of ASEAN, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei Darussalam then joined on 7 January 1984, Vietnam on 28 July 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar on 23 July 1997, and Cambodia on 30 April 1999, making up what is today the ten Member States of ASEAN. (http://www.aseansec.org/about_ASEAN.html)
Last year, China emerged to be the No 1 trading partner of the ASEAN group of countries and Thailand's second-largest export market last, thanks to the Asean-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA). A Trade Negotiations Department report showed that since the full implementation of FTA last year, bilateral trade between China and ASEAN had surged to USD 290 billion in 2010, from only 178.18 billion in 2009. In the first 11 months of last year, more than 34% of ASEAN countries' exports to China and 11% of their imports from that country resulted from privileges granted by the FTA.
China has also become Thailand's largest export market. Thai accounted for 22.7% of total exports last year to Asean countries, 11% to China, 10.5% to Japan and 10.3% to the US.
In terms of the value of bilateral trade, China has risen to become the Kingdom's biggest trading partner, ahead of Japan. The department's director-general, Srirat Rastapana, said the Asean-China FTA would play an even more important role in future trading between China, Thailand and Asean.
Major products exported to China by Asean countries include tapioca, rubber products, plastics and chemicals. Products imported by Thailand from China include ceramics, machinery, vegetables and fruit and textiles.
Srirat said that as well as the FTA, Asean and China have expanded and deepened their bilateral economic and trade ties by tightening cooperation in 10 clusters, under a five-year plan. The clusters include agriculture, foods, energy, logistics, tourism, restaurants and small and medium-sized enterprises.