South Korea will draw up safeguard measures to minimize the fallout of a free trade agreement with China on its farming sector, the Seoul government said Thursday.
“The close proximity of China, the similar agricultural structure and sizable difference in product prices has raised considerable concerns that an open trade arrangement will hurt local farmers,” the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said in a press release.
To alleviate such concerns, every effort will be made to get farm products to be treated as exceptions in the free trade agreement to better protect local farmers, the ministry said.
The announcement comes as Seoul and Beijing announced the launch of FTA negotiations on Wednesday after seven years of preliminary talks.
China, which has a gross domestic product of $7.3 trillion, is the world’s second largest economy and South Korea’s top trading partner. Two-way trade reached $220.6 billion in 2011, far exceeding $100.8 billion for the United States and $103.1 billion for the EU.
The ministry said it will create a dedicated office to formulate Seoul’s negotiation strategy and to keep all interested parties up to date on developments.
The government plans to receive input from farmers, consumers and experts to create strategies in the upcoming negotiations while at the same time building up the overall competitiveness of South Korea’s agricultural and food processing sector to boost exports, it said.
Seoul, meanwhile, claimed that if an FTA with China is reached, it could help the national economy grow by 0.95-1.25 percent five years after it goes into effect, with numbers going up 2.28-3.04 percent in 10 years.