Xi set for key trade talks on ROK visit

Updated: 2014-06-24 07:08

By Wu Jiao and Zhang Yunbi (China Daily USA)

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Xi set for key trade talks on ROK visit

An upcoming visit President Xi Jinping will make to the Republic of Korea has been described by the country's ambassador to China as being of "unparalleled significance".

Kwon Young-se said the president's trip will give a major boost to the bilateral and regional cooperation agenda, including negotiation of the China-ROK free trade agreement.

Xi is expected to fly to Seoul early next month on his first state visit to the country as president. ROK President Park Geun-hye visited China about a year ago and Xi's visit will be the fifth meeting between the two.

Although final details of the leaders' agenda have not yet been confirmed, Kwon predicted that the focus will be on bilateral ties, denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and key regional and world issues.

Both leaders will adopt an innovative approach in charting the way forward, the envoy said.

The trip comes amid lingering tensions in Northeast Asia. Some observers fear the tensions will impair cooperation in a region that accounts for more than 20 percent of the world's population and the global economy.

"Judging from the current situation, the close cooperation between South Korea and China is especially important, and I believe the two leaders will formulate closer and more open discussion of key issues," Kwon said.

Given the "deep private mutual trust" between the two leaders, the forthcoming summit will provide a positive impetus for the region and even the world, Kwon said.

He said the two leaders will "inject a very positive impetus" into the China-ROK free trade negotiations.

The trade agreement talks started in May 2012 and 11 rounds have been staged, with the 12th beginning next month in the ROK.

Given that China-Japan-ROK free trade agreement talks have slowed down since the Japanese leadership became embroiled in disputes over historical issues with its neighbors, markets have pinned high hopes on the China-ROK trade talks.

"The countries have been involved in heated discussions leading up to the final stage of the FTA negotiations and I believe we will see a positive outcome," Kwon said.

He added that both leaders fully understand the free trade agreement's importance, "so every time they meet, they underscore the urgency of signing the pact".

Kwon also said that Seoul will gradually expand visa exemptions to accommodate more Chinese travelers.

Eight million visits were conducted between people from the two countries last year, compared with just over 100,000 in 1992, when diplomatic relations were established.

Chinese tourists benefit from a visa-free policy when they visit Jeju Island in the ROK. Kwon said working groups from the two countries are involved in "serious and constructive" discussions on visa exemptions.

"Although a specific schedule is unavailable in this regard, I believe the countries should strive for the ultimate goal - complete visa exemption between them," he said.

Last June, Park chose China as the second country to visit after taking office, following the United States.

Kwon said the obvious trust built up between the two leaders has served as a catalyst for the faster development of ties.

Contact the writers at wujiao@chinadaily.com.cn and zhangyunbi@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily USA 06/24/2014 page4)