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Chinese premier calls for quick progress in follow-up FTA talks with Korea

The Korea Times - 24 August 2022

Chinese premier calls for quick progress in follow-up FTA talks with Korea

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang called Wednesday for quick progress in follow-up free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with Korea as he described the two countries as "inseparable" neighbors that should work together to defend supply chain stability.

Li’s remarks came at a time when Seoul has been striving to maintain its economic partnership with China, its largest trading partner, while continuing to bolster the longstanding security alliance with the United States amid the intensifying rivalry between Beijing and Washington.

"China and Korea are neighbors and inseparable partners ... We must maintain mutual trust and be at peace with each other," Li said in a speech delivered via virtual links during a Seoul-based business forum to mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations.

"I hope that both sides pursue safe development and promote regional peace by keeping equality, and considering each other’s core interests and important matters," Li said. "And I hope that the second phase negotiations for the China-Korea FTA will swiftly be concluded."

Working-level talks have been under way between Seoul and Beijing on expanding the FTA to include the opening up of markets to service and investment sectors. The Korea-China FTA went into effect in December 2015, with the removal of major tariffs.

Highlighting the importance of "friendly win-win" cooperation, Li proposed deepening the partnerships in areas encompassing "advanced manufacturing, digital and green economy, and climate change."

Li also emphasized "openness" and "inclusion" as principles that countries should adhere to.

"We must uphold multilateralism, the direction of economic globalization and defend stability of supply chains," he said.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a mega trade pact involving China, Korea and ASEAN, will be a "new driving force" for the development and prosperity of the region, Li noted.

Following Li’s remarks, Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo also delivered an online speech calling for efforts to strengthen substantive bilateral cooperation in economic and other international affairs.

"The bilateral trade volume hit a record high of $300 billion last year, a nearly 50-fold increase compared with when diplomatic ties were established," Han said. "While expanding the practical cooperation, the cooperation on international issues, such as global supply chain stability and climate change, should also be further strengthened," he said.

High-profile participants at the event included Korean Ambassador to China Chung Jae-ho, Chinese Ambassador to Korea Xing Haiming and SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, who doubles as chief of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

 source: The Korea Times