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Korea, China agree on basic guidelines for FTA

Korea and China have agreed on basic guidelines concerning product origin marking and customs clearance in their latest round of free trade agreement negotiations that ended on Sunday, Seoul officials said Monday.

The two sides, however, have differed over the classification of sensitive items, which require an alleviated level of tariff cuts.

During the three-day meeting which was held over the weekend in Harbin, the two countries once again confirmed their mutual commitment to effectuating the bilateral trade pact, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

This was also the first round of Korea-China FTA talks to take place under the new leadership of Korea and China formed earlier this year.

Woo Tae-hee, chief negotiator of the ministry’s trade sector, represented the Korean side and talked to his Chinese counterpart, assistant commerce minister Yu Jianhua.

“Korea and China shared the same thoughts on the issue of origin marking and customs clearance, and will from now on work on drawing up a written agreement,” Woo told reporters.

It has not yet been decided, however, whether this document will be released to the public, he added.

The two partners will also hold additional talks in the future, to decide which items are to be classified as “sensitive items,” officials said.

“When it comes to sensitive sectors such as agriculture and fisheries, we will first collect the opinions of local industries before making further negotiations with China,” Woo said.

China, on the other hand, considers the automobile, machine and oil industries as its most sensitive sectors.

The classification details, however, will only be made in later FTA talks, he added.

“The procedures of the Korea-China FTA talks will be broken down into two phases,” the trade official explained. “The current stage is just about defining the general frame of the trade pact, not about making detailed discussions over individual items.”

The next round of talks will be held in Korea in late June or early July, though further details are yet to be decided, according to officials.

China is currently Korea’s largest trading partner, with bilateral trade expected to exceed the $300 billion mark by 2015, from $215.1 billion in 2012, according to the Korea International Trade Association.

The two countries earlier agreed to abolish all tariffs within 10 years of effectuating their bilateral trade pact.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)
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