Since the late 1980s and the advent of reforms led by Deng Xiaoping, China has pursued an increasingly export-oriented trade policy. This trend has been accompanied by selective domestic agricultural and industrial restructuring, privatization and internationalization. But while China has long been a vigorous global trader and has entered into numerous trade and economic agreements with partners around the world, Beijing’s leaders are relative newcomers to free trade agreements (FTAs). This is particularly so compared with counterparts in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand, and some of China’s Asian neighbors such as South Korea, Thailand and Singapore. For example, when Pangestu and Gooptu in mid-2003 listed 36 Asian FTAs completed or contemplated, that list included 12 entries involving Singapore, ten involving South Korea, and five involving Japan, plus more than a half-dozen arrangements involving Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) group. However, China appeared only twice on the list. One entry concerned a possible China-ASEAN FTA and the other related to the ASEAN Plus Three discussions. No bilateral FTA was on China’s agenda at that time.
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