South Korea and China would be able to initial their free trade agreement (FTA) this week, officials in Seoul said Sunday, raising chances of the deal, hailed as the biggest and the most promising for South Korea, being enacted within this year.
China is the biggest trading partner for South Korea, who ships some one-fourth of its exports to the world's No. 2 economy. At the time of the November announcement, South Korean officials expected annual bilateral trade to increase nearly 40 percent this year compared to 2012.
The two countries announced on Nov. 10 that they have concluded their negotiations for the FTA that began in May 2012. Most of what they agreed to, especially the scale of items excluded from tariff removal, have yet to be disclosed. Details are expected to be made public after the initialing, South Korea's News Agency (Yonhap) reported.
"South Korea and China have met in a third country and completed technical consultations and the transcription of the documents," a senior official at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said. "Any big differences between the two sides have been eliminated, and we expect to be able to initial the pact this week." Officials have said market opening for agricultural goods would be minimal in the South Korea-China FTA compared to trade pacts with other countries, including 30 percent of farm and fishery products permanently excluded from liberalization.