Korea, China begin follow-up FTA talks

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Korea, China begin follow-up FTA talks

Korea and China on Thursday began the first round of talks to expand the scope of the bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) to better cover the service and investment sectors and increase business opportunities for both countries.

The two nations implemented the FTA, which is focused on lowering tariffs on goods, in December 2015 and recently agreed to hold negotiations to upgrade the trade deal.

Kim Young-sam, a deputy minister of trade and investment at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, and Wang Shouwen, vice Chinese commerce minister, attended the first dialogue held in Seoul.

“The time has come for Korea and China to put tough times behind them and raise their economic and trade relations to a new level,” Kim said in an opening address. “The [follow-up FTA] negotiations will help further expand the fast-growing services trade and create a stable investment environment in the two nations.”

China has been reducing its focus on manufacturing to restructure itself as a more service-oriented economy. China’s service industry was rated at US$5.6 trillion in 2016, making it the world’s second-biggest market.

The value of services trade between the two nations has risen from $2.7 billion in 1998 to $36.7 billion in 2016, roughly quadruple the growth rate of global services trade, according to Seoul’s trade ministry.

The two sides will exchange their views on the service sector and on legal issues in the first talks before moving on to market access and investor protection measures in following dialogues, the ministry said.

“The government will seek to expand market access in tourism, culture and finance through the negotiations to improve the competitiveness of the Korean service industry and create new jobs in the sector,” the ministry said in a release.

China defended free trade and open markets, calling for Korea to collaborate with its efforts to stand up against the rising protectionism, a thinly-veiled comment aimed at U.S. President Trump’s “America First” policy.

“At the moment, the global recovery of trade growth is very fragile and the trend of trade protectionism is on the rise,” Wang said in a speech. “As such as a background, it is very important for China and Korea, two important economies in East Asia, to send a positive signal for our further market opening.”

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