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China signs biggest free trade deal with South Korea

Zhong Nan
Updated: Jun 1,2015 4:10 PM

Workers deliver commodities to Qingdao Dagang Customs for inspection on March 20, 2015. These commodities are among the first batch of 6,000 shipments by sea from South Korea through direct cross-border e-commerce transaction. [Photo by Hu Qing/]

China and South Korea signed a bilateral free trade agreement on June 1, the largest bilateral FTA deal for China in terms of volume.

Under the agreement, China will abolish tariffs on 91 percent of all South Korean products within 20 years, while South Korea will eliminate tariffs on 92 percent of all goods from China.

The countries began talks in May 2012 covering 17 areas, including trade in goods and services, health care, entertainment, investment and trade rules, as well as e-commerce and government procurement.

After President Xi Jinping’s visit to Seoul in July 2014, negotiations on the pact made rapid progress. President Xi and his South Korean counterpart Park Geun-hye announced a conclusion of substantive negotiations on the deal in Beijing in November 2014.

The deal, written in English, Chinese and Korean, will be implemented after getting approval from parliaments of both countries.

The FTA covered 17 areas, including trade in goods and services, investment and trade rules as well as e-commerce and government procurement.

During the talks on the sidelines of the signing ceremony, Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng and his South Korean counterpart Yoon Sang-jick shared views that the China-South Korea FTA will expand bilateral trade and investment, and that it will serve as an all-round cooperative platform for the two countries to seek new growth engines.

The two ministers exchanged views about various issues, including a regional economic integration via the trilateral FTA between Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

The RCEP is a multilateral FTA that will include China, South Korea, Japan and 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as India, Australia and New Zealand.