Li: Speed up free trade talks with ROK

Updated: 2011-10-28 07:16

By Qin Jize (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Vice-Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday said negotiations on a free trade agreement between China and the Republic of Korea (ROK) should move at a faster pace, and said he hoped the two countries could expand their investment cooperation.

"We have to speed up efforts to conclude a free trade agreement," Li told representatives from the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other business leaders at a banquet.

He said the two countries agreed on the need for such a deal and the foundations had been laid through years of research.

"A China-ROK free trade agreement will help us jointly cope with international economic risks and boost both countries' national welfare," Li said.

He also suggested the ROK should expand its investment in China in the service sector and agriculture.

He said the two countries should strengthen cooperation on banking and securities to jointly push forward the development of a securities market in the region.

China is the ROK's largest trading partner, with annual bilateral trade surging to $188.4 billion in 2010 from $6.3 billion when diplomatic relations were established in 1992, Huh Chang-soo, chairman of the Federation of Korean Industries, said at the banquet.

Huh called for more economic cooperation and personnel exchanges with China to expand trade and fuel growth.

Prior to the banquet, Li met ROK Parliamentary Speaker Park Hee-tae at the National Assembly to talk about ways to promote regional security.

According to the Seoul-based Yonhap news agency, Li briefed Park about his meeting on Monday with Kim Jong-il, the top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Li told Park that Pyongyang is willing to seek dialogue with Seoul and ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula in accordance with the principle of denuclearization.

Li on Thursday concluded his tour of the Korean Peninsula, which included a three-day visit to Pyongyang.

During his two-day stay in Seoul, Li met ROK President Lee Myung-bak and Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik, and the two countries agreed to expand their currency swap agreement to the equivalent of $56.5 billion.

Analysts say such a rare back-to-back trip to the DPRK and the ROK showed China has acknowledged the equal importance of the DPRK and the ROK and takes a balanced attitude toward them.

Kang Jun-roung, a professor with the ROK's Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, on Thursday told a group of 200 visiting Chinese young people in Seoul that the rapid development of the China-ROK relationship is a great achievement since the two countries had only had diplomatic ties for 19 years.

He said that people on the Korean Peninsula do not want a war and need help from both China and the United States to ensure this.

AFP and Ma Liyao contributed to this story.

China Daily