Sensitive items a key hurdle for China FTA

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Sensitive items a key hurdle for China FTA

Ironing out differences in ongoing free trade agreement negotiations with China will not be an easy task, the country’s chief negotiator said, after wrapping up the second round of negotiations with China this week in Jeju. “We found significant differences in the basic stances of the two countries, especially in the service investment section,” Deputy Trade Minister Choi Seok-young said at a press conference yesterday, one day after wrapping up three-day talks with his Chinese counterpart Yu Jianhua.

Choi said the two sides exchanged “very basic views” on the modalities of trading goods and services.

They agreed to divide goods into three categories: sensitive items, super-sensitive items and regular items. The first two will be classified further into agricultural and manufactured goods.

“Korea is sensitive about agricultural and fishery products, while China is sensitive about manufactured goods,” Choi said, adding that the two sides must “determine what percentages of agricultural and manufactured goods should be protected as sensitive items.”

Regarding services, Choi expects to face numerous hurdles in future talks. “Services or investments are associated with each country’s rules and laws. We have to understand each other’s procedures in detail,” he said.

The third round of the FTA negotiations will be held in early August in China, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

In May, the two countries announced the launch of formal free trade negotiations, expecting them to take two years.

Before the launch of the official talks, the neighboring countries agreed that they would proceed in two phases, with the handling of sensitive items and the scope of the trade agreement to be mainly discussed first.

Trade Minister Bark Tae-ho said Korea will not embark on official talks if the two sides fail to reach an agreement on the issue of sensitive items.

China is Korea’s largest trading partner. Bilateral trade between the two is expected to reach 300 billion dollars by 2015.

By Song Su-hyun [ssh@joongang.co.kr]

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