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People's Daily Online>>Opinion

New driving force for East Asian cooperation

By Shen Jiru (People's Daily Overseas Edition)

17:09, January 16, 2012

Edited and translated by People's Daily Online

2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and South Korea. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak ended his sixth visit to China on Jan. 11 after he took office as president in 2008. During his stay, the two countries issued a joint communiqué.

It is worth noting that the communiqué said, "The two sides share the view that a free trade agreement between China and South Korea will provide a better policy environment for bilateral economic and trade cooperation, and serves the interests of both sides. The two sides agree to launch negotiations for the China-South Korea free trade area as soon as South Korea is ready."

The bilateral free trade area is a strategic measure to strengthen the strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries, to improve their ability to cope with crises, to promote the sustainable development of the Chinese, South Korean, and East Asian economies, and to benefit the people of the two countries and entire East Asia.

First, the China-South Korea free trade area will be crucial to achieving the goal established in the joint communiqué of increasing bilateral trade volume to 300 billion U.S. dollars by 2015. Their trade volume reached 220 billion U.S. dollars last year, and it was quite an achievement for South Korea, whose territory is only 1 percent of that of the United States.

China is already South Korea's largest trading partner. In order to increase their annual trade volume by 50 percent to 300 billion U.S. dollars, the two countries must make great efforts to promote trade and investment liberalization, and the most effective way is establishing a free trade area.

Second, establishing the free trade zone is out of China and South Korea's needs of safeguarding their interests in economic cooperation of the Asia-Pacifica Region and sticking to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) mode.

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