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China, Singapore sign free trade pact

BEIJING, October 23 – China and Singapore signed a free-trade agreement in Beijing on Thursday, capping two years of negotiations, officials said.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong witnessed the signing ceremony in Beijing, with Singapore hailing the deal as a an economic boon for the Southeast Asian city-state.

"China is one of the largest and fastest growing markets in the world," the Singaporean government said in a statement.

"The agreement will enhance Singapore companies\’ access to the vast Chinese market and further boost our excellent bilateral trade and investment relations."

Trade between the two countries reached 47.2 billion dollars in 2007, according to China\’s official Xinhua news agency.

China is Singapore’s third largest trading partner and largest investment destination, according to the Singapore government.

The free-trade agreement will come into force on January 1, 2009, according to the Singaporean side.

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