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China, ROK complete first-stage FTA talks

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-09-06 14:57

SEOUL - China and Republic of Korea completed first-stage negotiations on their bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), setting foundations for more in-depth talks over mutual opening and liberalization, Seoul's trade ministry said Friday.

"Both sides wrapped up the first-phase negotiations for the Sino-Korea FTA by agreeing on the modality (or basic guidelines)," Woo Tae-hee, Seoul's assistance trade minister and a chief negotiator for the FTA with China, told a press briefing.

ROK and China held the seventh round of first-stage FTA negotiations in Beijing for three days through Thursday. The two countries started such talks in May last year.

Woo noted that the first-stage talks set the foundation for the upcoming second-phase negotiations, which will discuss items allowed to be liberalized by lowering or removing tariff barriers.

FTA talks tend to start item-by-item negotiations directly, but the Sino-Korea FTA talks divided it into two phases given concerns over protection of the agricultural sector in South Korea and of the manufacturing sector in China, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) said in a statement.

The first-stage talks agreed on basic guidelines for four areas, including products, service/investment, regulations and economic cooperation.

On the product front, the two countries agreed to abolish tariffs within a certain period of time on 90 percent of all products in terms of the number of items, and on 85 percent of imports in terms of their monetary value.

Tariffs on normal items will be removed immediately or within 10 years after the implementation of the FTA, while those on sensitive products will be abolished within 10-20 years after the deal takes effect.

Highly sensitive items, which will be excluded from tariff removal, took up 10 percent of the total in the first-stage talks, but the "reference number" can move up or down during the second- phase negotiations, Woo said.

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