Updated: 2006-06-04 08:41

Construction began on Saturday on the Chinese side of a cross-border trade zone between China and Kazakhstan at Korgas in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Northwest China.

The China-Kazakhstan Korgas International Border Cooperation Center was the next strategic cooperation project after the cross-border oil pipelines between the two countries, according to Kazak Industry and Trade Minister Vladimir Shkolnik.

The center would help promote economic and trade ties between the two countries, he said during a trip to Xinjiang in April.

The center involves a total investment of 8 to 10 billion yuan (1 billion to 1.25 billion US dollars) and is expected to open in five to seven years, said Liang Xinyuan, director of the center's administration.

The central area of the zone covers 1.2 square kilometers in Kazakhstan and 3.43 square kilometers in China, and an auxiliary area will cover another 9.73 square kilometers in China.

Kazakhstan started the construction on its side in March.
Liang said the center would showcase and sell products from the two countries, and promote tourism and cultural exchanges.

Kazak President Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed the trade zone to Chinese President Hu Jintao in June 2003.
Trade between China and Kazakhstan reached a record 6 billion US dollars in 2005.