South Korea is working to officially sign its bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with China in May, a ranking government official said Monday.
The move comes as the government seeks to implement the free trade pact before the end of the year, according to South Korea's (Yonhap) News Agency.
"After the FTA is officially signed, the government plans to submit a ratification bill to the National Assembly before the end of the first half," Deputy Trade Minister Woo Tae-hee told a regular press briefing.
Implementing the FTA before the year's end is a key to maximizing its benefits, the official said.
Under the bilateral FTA, the two countries are required to immediately eliminate their import tariffs on a set portion of products from the other country, meaning greater competitiveness for South Korean firms as long as the South Korea-China FTA is implemented before any of China's FTAs with other countries go into effect.
"The government has worked closely with the business sector, the parliament and other interest groups and will continue to do so to help realize the benefits of the FTA at an early date," Woo said.
The Korea-China FTA was initialed in late February, about three months after the countries declared the conclusion of their negotiations that were first held in May 2012.
Under the Korea-China FTA, South Korea will completely eliminate its tariffs on 79 percent of all products, or 9,690 items, imported from China within 10 years following its implementation.
China will reciprocate the move on 71 percent of the products, or 5,846 items, from South Korea over the cited period.