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Seoul to become bridge between US, China through FTAs

Yonhap 2013/06/14

Seoul to become bridge between U.S., China through FTAs

SEOUL, June 14 (Yonhap) — South Korea on Friday revealed its new policy on free trade agreements (FTAs) that again highlighted its role as a bridge between advanced and developing nations, or more specifically the United States and China.

"Based on its existing network of FTAs, the country will seek to become a linchpin that links the integrated market of East Asia centered around China and the pan-Pacific market led by the United States," the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a press release.

The new trade policy comes as the ministry was newly tasked with the country’s trade affairs, including negotiations for new trade deals, under the Park Geun-hye government that came into office on Feb. 25.

Trade Minister Yoon Sang-jick had noted a need to re-evaluate the country’s ongoing FTA negotiations, though he said the country will continue to promote free trade.

"The country has long based its trade policy on free trade and open market. It will continue to maintain such a base under the new government," Choi Kyong-lim, deputy trade minister, told reporters Thursday.

"However, the trade policy under the new government will be one that will seek to share benefits of trade with every member of the society, including businesses, farmers and fishermen," he added.

Under the new trade policy, the country’s top priority will be to conclude its ongoing negotiations for a bilateral FTA with China at the earliest date possible, while also seeking to speed up negotiations for the so-called Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a multilateral FTA that will include China, Japan and 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"The country has already signed FTAs with the United States and the European Union, and so it will be able to play the role of a linchpin that links between different economies because the country will have signed an FTA with all major countries in the Asian-Pacific region once it signs an FTA with China," Choi said.

The Korea-U.S. FTA went into effect early last year following the implementation of the Korea-EU FTA in 2011. Seoul and Beijing have held five rounds of negotiations for their bilateral FTA.

Choi said the country will seek to strengthen its role in Asia, partly by joining the envisioned RCEP and also by pursuing additional bilateral FTAs with fast growing economies in the region, such as Vietnam and Indonesia.

The deputy minister said the country may also consider joining the ongoing negotiations for the U.S.-led Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which may further strengthen the country’s role as a bridge between the United States and China.

The ministry also introduced a new policy on FTAs with developing countries that include development assistance.

"The country will pursue a new type of FTAs with newly emerging countries that will benefit both sides by linking trade agreements with its cooperation for the development of newly emerging countries in the industrial, energy and resources sectors," it said in a press release.

To this end, the ministry will soon launch what it called an Emerging Nations Co-development Program (ECP), through which it will provide country-specific assistance, it added.

 source: Yonhap