China, ROK willing to advance FTA process

XinhuaNet

China, ROK willing to advance FTA process

17 June 2005

BEIJING, June 17 (Xinhuanet) — China and the Republic of Korea (ROK) Friday expressed their positive attitude towards speeding up research about establishing a free trade area (FTA) amid the fast-growth economic ties between the two countries.

"To quicken the study of setting up the FTA between the two countries is active and feasible," said Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai at China-ROK Economic Cooperation Forum held here Friday.

In 2004, China and the ROK reached a consensus to develop a non-governmental joint study of the feasibility of the FTA. The two countries officially lanuched the non-government FTA feasibility study on March 20 this year.

Minister Bo has frowned on Asia’s current lax economic integration process, which has lagged behind the European Union and North America Free Trade Area and held down the whole Asian economy.

"With closer economic ties and about one trillion dollars trade within East Asia, the interdependence in the region has markedly increased," said Bo. "China will, in an active way, make joint efforts with the ROK to push forward the FTA process."

Former ROK Prime Minister Goh Kun, with about 150 ROK officials,businessmen and scholars, attended the forum. He said he considered a free trade agreement in East Asia as a historic opportunity. He said that the integration of China and the ROK will become a catalyst for promoting the development of Northeast Asia.

The affluent China-ROK trade and economic relations have laid a foundation for the establishment of the FTA, according to a Chinese expert.

China and ROK witnessed rapid growth in trade in recent years. In 2004, the volume of bilateral trade hit 90 billion US dollars, a year-on-year increase of 42.4 percent. China is ROK’s largest trade partner while ROK is China’s fourth largest trade partner.

"Bilateral trade is expected to exceed 100 billion dollars this year," said Bo. "Bilateral trade will hit 150 billion to 200 billion dollars in 2010."

"China and the ROK are complementary in economy and share a similar history, culture and political task, which will help boost economic ties," said Zhang Shuguang, a fellow research with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

ROK Prime Minister Lee Hae-Chan will pay an official visit to China from June 21 to 23. His visit will further the comprehensive cooperative partnership between the two countries, said Goh Kun.

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