Seoul, Beijing to Start FTA Talks in January

      November 25, 2011 11:56

      Seoul and Beijing hope to start bilateral free trade talks in January. Kim Tae-hyo, the presidential secretary for national security strategy, on Thursday said he would fly to Beijing in December to meet Yu Jianhua, the Chinese assistant minister of commerce, to discuss the bilateral FTA.

      But he added the Korean government has taken "no final position on the matter yet."

      A senior official at the Trade Ministry said efforts to seek a Korea-China trade deal "will gain momentum now that the National Assembly has ratified the Korea-U.S. FTA." He added Korean and China already agree to keep out sensitive items like agricultural produce.

      The two governments originally wanted to start official FTA talks this year, and preliminary negotiations on sensitive items were practically concluded last month. But another round of preliminary negotiations was delayed while the National Assembly wrangled over the FTA with the U.S.

      Beijing is keener than Seoul to conclude the FTA early. At a meeting in Bali on Nov. 18, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao asked President Lee Myung-bak to visit China to discuss the bilateral FTA. But Seoul also believes a deal with China will benefit Korean business.

      The Korea Institute for International Economic Policy in a report said Korea's GDP would grow 2.3 percent if it concludes an FTA with China. Korea would have the trade surplus thanks to an increase in exports of high-end products, intermediate goods and components, despite an expected blow to small and medium-sized enterprises, and agricultural and fisheries industries because of increased imports of cheap goods from China, the report added.

      But some government officials are concerned that Korea's economic dependence on China would deepen as a result of an FTA, since trade volume between Seoul and Beijing is more than double that between Seoul and Washington.

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