China, ROK to speed up free-trade deal

By Le Tian (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-15 06:51

CEBU, THE PHILIPPINES: China and the Republic of Korea (ROK) agreed yesterday to speed up the research phase of the effort to create a China-ROK free trade area (FTA).

The agreement was announced after Premier Wen Jiabao met with ROK President Roh Moo-hyun on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit.

Wen said China and the ROK are friendly neighbors and share a common interest in promoting regional peace and development. He also said both countries play lead roles in maintaining stability on the Korean Peninsula.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The two sides are planning to mark the occasion by holding China-ROK "Year of Exchange" activities.

Roh said his country would use the opportunity to promote high-level visits and increase economic cooperation.

Seoul is ready to speed up the consultation process leading to the establishment of an FTA and to work to balance bilateral trade, he said.

Also yesterday, Wen met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.

During his meeting with Singh, Wen said that because China and India are the world's biggest developing countries and two of Asia's most influential nations, their relations are of global significance.

"We consider India as an important cooperative partner and the development of India is beneficial to China, so we welcome India's growth," he said.

Singh rated Sino-Indian relations highly, saying the development of the two countries would create opportunities for both sides.

Both agreed to speed up negotiations on outstanding border issues and to work together on regional and international affairs.

During his meeting with Clark, Wen said China values relations with New Zealand and considers it an important partner in the South Pacific region.

Talks on creating a China-New Zealand FTA are progressing, he said.

"Both sides should demonstrate flexibility and pragmatism and properly handle the differences and difficulties to continue to push for the progress of the talks."

In response, Clark said her country was ready to accept the principle of mutual understanding and to push FTA negotiations.

(China Daily 01/15/2007 page6)

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