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Trade in focus as top leaders meet

By Zhang Haizhou (China Daily)

15:06, June 28, 2013

Agriculture, other thorny issues to be hashed out

Advancing negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement is a central focus of the first visit by the President of the Republic of Korea Park Geun-hye to China since she took office earlier this year.

China is currently the ROK's largest trading partner. Beijing wishes to reduce its trade deficit with Seoul through the agreement, commentators in the Chinese media have said, expressing hopes that the two sides will make breakthroughs in agriculture, which has been an obstacle to progress in the past.

The two countries will hold the sixth round of talks in the ROK's largest port city of Busan on July 4, according to the country's Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Tuesday.

In the upcoming round of talks, trade representatives plan to come up with a draft that can best reflect the interests of both sides.

"We hope we can have more substantial results (from the planned visit) in the economic sector, and we are making utmost efforts to that end," said Cho Won-dong, the top economic policy secretary to Park, in May, according to the country's news agency Yonhap.

Cho noted that the ROK would first focus on forging an free trade agreement with China before turning its attention to Japan.

Fan Ying, an expert on international trade at China Foreign Affairs University, said the agreement will help balance trade.

"Signing the agreement will not reverse China's trade deficit with the ROK fundamentally … but we expect the agreement could narrow the trade gap," she said.

She said Seoul still has an advantage over Beijing in terms of high-end manufacturing, including semiconductors, displays, petrochemicals, but China is still competitive on the lower end.

While an agreement would be beneficial to both sides, China has the most to gain from any breakthroughs made in the field of agriculture, Fan said.

"Both the ROK and Japan lack openness in agriculture, while China is a powerhouse. If (Beijing and Seoul) managed to make a breakthrough in agricultural talks, the agreement will benefit China's exports," she said.

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