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China, Korea start FTA negotiations

By Li Jiabao  (Chinadaily.com.cn)

16:39, May 02, 2012

Commercial ministers from China and the Republic of Korea jointly announced the launch of free trade association talks on Wednesday in Beijing.

Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming said the first round of negotiations will be held later this month and he hoped that "the FTA negotiations would be finished within two years".

Both ministers agreed that the level of liberalization for trading goods will go beyond each country's commitment to the World Trade Organization and would address sensitive areas, the agriculture and aquatic industries of the ROK and the manufacturing industries of China, establishing a "normal" track and a "sensitive" track. The sensitive track may include a "sensitive" list and a "highly sensitive" list and possible treatments include longer phase-out periods, partial reductions and exclusions, according to a joint ministerial statement.

The bilateral FTA will not affect the trilateral FTA negotiations between China, Japan and ROK but will push forward the three-party FTA, Chen said. The summit between leaders from China, Japan and Korea, to be held in Beijing in May, will see "a positive signal for the arrangement of the China-Japan-Korea FTA", he said.

China is the largest trade partner of Korea while Korea is China's third largest trade partner. The two countries agreed to expand the trade volume to $300 billion by 2015 from more than $200 billion in 2011.

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