Korea Times | 7 November 2014
Park, Xi set to celebrate FTA in Beijing
By Yi Whan-woo
Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi agreed to make the utmost effort to finalize ongoing negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) during talks in Beijing on Friday.
The foreign ministry said the two sides agreed to work together to conclude the trade pact.
The move came amid growing speculation that the countries’ leaders may announce the conclusion of the FTA at a Seoul-Beijing summit slated for next week.
The top diplomats of Korea and China met to discuss summit agendas.
President Park Geun-hye and Chinese President Xi Jingping will hold a bilateral summit in Beijing Monday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting.
The two-day meeting will run until Tuesday. It will bring the leaders of the 21 APEC member-countries, including South Korea, China, Japan, the United States, Russia, Canada, Hong Kong and Singapore, to seek ways to deepen regional economic integration.
Seoul and Beijing previously agreed to conclude the FTA negotiations before the end of this year.
According to a government source, however, China is pushing to complete the talks before the start of the APEC conference to make an announcement over the deal at the Seoul-Beijing summit.
On Thursday, the two countries upgraded their chief negotiators to commerce ministers for their 14th and latest round of bilateral FTA negotiations in an apparent bid to narrow gaps and accelerate the talks.
It was the highest-level round of talks since the bilateral FTA negotiations began in May 2012.
Korea Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Yoon Sang-jick and Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng initially planned to hold their talks in Beijing for one day.
But the sides agreed to extend their negotiations over the weekend as they still had a few remaining issues to resolve, a source said. The source said China wanted South Korea to open its agricultural doors fully while South Korea wanted its industrial products to have greater access.
China, the world’s second-largest economy, is South Korea’s biggest trading partner.
Once the sides agree and ratify the FTA, South Korea’s gross domestic growth is anticipated to increase by up to 3.04 percent for the next 10 years.
South Korea already has FTAs with three of the world’s largest economy blocks ― the U.S, the European Union (EU) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Meanwhile, Yun and Wang also discussed how to deal with North Korea’s nuclear program, which continues to threaten the region.
The ministers have held bilateral talks three times this year.