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China aims to sign S. Korea free trade deal in 2015

BEIJING: China aims to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea next year, a senior official said Monday, after most of the negotiations were completed.

The two countries announced on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit in Beijing last week that they had effectively secured a pact that will remove tariffs on more than 90 percent of goods.

But some details have yet to be finalised, they said.

“The two sides next will hold working-level talks on a few technical issues and complete all negotiations within this year,” Wang Shouwen, a Chinese assistant commerce minister, told reporters at a briefing Monday.

“(We) will strive to sign an agreement as soon as possible next year,” he said, adding the deal was expected to take effect from the second half of 2015.

The FTA would remove tariffs on 92 percent of Chinese goods exported to South Korea and 91 percent of South Korean goods imported by China within 20 years, according to a previous announcement by Seoul.

China is currently South Korea’s biggest trading partner and export market, and two-way trade stood at around $228.8 billion last year according to Seoul’s figures.

Wang said South Korea is China’s third largest individual country export destination.

The two neighbours started trade negotiations in 2012 but progress has been delayed by differences on the extent of market opening.-AFP

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