Free trade with ChinaXi Jinping, the vice president of China, who will be visiting Seoul later this week, said a free trade agreement between Korea and China will strengthen the bilateral relationship between the two countries. He emphasized the need for the swift negotiation of an agreement.
Xi’s comment was made during an exclusive interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, conducted ahead of his first tour in Asia as vice president.
The vice president’s desire to start talks on a free trade pact are significant because he has already been singled out as the next president of China.
China is the closest neighbor to Korea next to Japan, and it is surfacing as the world’s second largest economy. There is a high level of economic exchange between the two countries and each country has an industrial structure that is complementary of the other.
Trade with China will have a huge effect on the Korean economy, if and when a free trade agreement between the two countries is signed. Having the presumptive next leader of China express such a strong desire to seek a free trade agreement with Korea will help boost bilateral trade talks between the two countries, which have been at a standstill.
The South Korean government needs to advance the free trade discussion by taking advantage of the Chinese vice president’s upcoming visit.
Progress on trade talks between Korea and China is likely to stimulate the pending bilateral trade talks between Korea and Japan.
In addition, the possibility of a free trade agreement between Korea, China and Japan that was discussed among the three countries during a meeting in October in Beijing, China, is likely to grow.
A joint study on the trilateral free trade agreement conducted by members of academia, the government and the business community is scheduled to get under way in the first half of next month.
Meanwhile, studies on bilateral agreements on free trade pacts between Korea and China and Korea and Japan have already begun.
If the governments of the respective countries have the desire to pursue bilateral free trade agreements, then talks could proceed at any time.
A free trade agreement between Korea and China could be the catalyst for other agreements but could also bring us closer to the realization of an East Asian community, which was proposed during the meeting in Beijing in October.
We expect Xi’s visit to Korea will be a significant turning point for a Korea-China free trade agreement.