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S. Korea launches 'China Desk' to fully utilize bilateral FTA

The South Korean government on Wednesday set up a new help center for local businesses, especially small and medium-sized companies, seeking to explore the Chinese market using the country's bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with the neighboring country.

The so-called China Desk was set up at the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) in Seoul. It consists of experts from five related agencies, including KITA, the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency and the Korea Intellectual Property Protection Association, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

The Korea-China FTA was initialed late last month, about three months after the countries declared a conclusion of their negotiations that began in May 2012. The countries plan to officially sign the bilateral trade pact within the first half of the year for possible implementation before the year's end.

The new center will help local companies fully utilize the benefits of the Korea-China FTA, providing all necessary and available information ranging from China's new import duty rates under the bilateral FTA to the outcome of the latest market research in China.

"I believe the Korea-China FTA will be a new steppingstone for growth of our companies, and the China Desk will be the first to provide all necessary support to that end," Trade Minister Yoon Sang-jick was quoted as saying at a ceremony marking the opening of the help center.

In addition to the Seoul center, the government plans to open four new business help centers in China, including a Beijing office slated to open later this year, the ministry said.

Once implemented, the Korea-China FTA is expected to help greatly boost the country's exports to China, already the world's single largest importer of South Korean products.

In 2014, shipments to China accounted for over 25 percent of South Korea's overall exports.

Under the proposed FTA, China will eliminate its import duties on 5,846 products, or 71 percent, shipped from South Korea within 10 years of its implementation.

South Korea will do the same on 9,690 products, or 79 percent, from China over the cited period.

Over a 20-year period following its implementation, the two countries will eliminate their tariffs on over 91 percent of all products traded between them. (Yonhap)

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