China Looks to Trade Agreement with South Korea in 2015

Chinese officials have indicated that, following the recent progress towards concluding a free trade agreement with Australia after nearly a decade of negotiations, a similar FTA deal between China and South Korea could become effective in the second half of 2015.

The governments of the two countries said last week that they had ‘effectively’ reached an FTA that would remove or sharply reduce barriers of trade and investment between China and South Korea.

“Our next step involves some technical issues and we will conduct some working consultations, striving to finish negotiations entirely within a year,” China’s assistant commerce minister, Wang Shouwen, told reporters.

“Next year, in the first half of the year, we hope both sides will be able to formally sign an agreement. If all goes smoothly and in line with our hopes, then next year, in second half of the year, the China-South Korea FTA potentially could be formally implemented.”

Any deal between China, the world’s largest exporter, and South Korea, ranked seventh, faces legal and parliament reviews in the two countries. In addition to China’s recent agreement with Australia, South Korea has struck a free trade deal with New Zealand.

Asked whether there were similar concerns over the South Korean agreement as with stalled trade talks with Taiwan, Wang said he regretted the failure of the Taiwan talks and wants to ensure that the same does not happen with South Korea.

Anti-Beijing protests in Taiwan ultimately derailed a trade pact that would have opened cross-straits investments in various sectors. However, he said that follow-up talks with Taiwan had yielded some results and the two sides would continue to push ahead with negotiations.

Wang added that the conclusion of an FTA with South Korea should additionally benefit similar talks with Japan, and he hoped to be able to announce progress on China-Japan talks next year.

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