S. Korea says latest round of FTA talks with China made progress

SEJONG, June 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and China have made some progress in their bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations, with both sides agreeing to speed up the talks, Seoul-side ministry said Monday.

At the 11th round of talks held in China last week, the two countries exchanged a second list of items they seek to exclude from market liberalization, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

"There has also been significant progress in negotiations on the text of the agreement on products and trade remedies," it said in a press release, implying the sides have somewhat narrowed their gap on the scope of market opening.

South Korea considers farm goods, including fishery products, to be most sensitive while China is seen as protecting its manufacturing industry.

The countries have already agreed to eliminate import tariffs on 90 percent of all products they trade.

China's commerce ministry, too, has reported "positive progress" in the latest FTA negotiations.

In the recent round, the two countries also exchanged their initial requests for the scope of market opening in the service sector.

"In the service and investment sectors, there were in-depth discussions on how to liberalize the markets," the South Korean ministry said.

Progress also came from discussions on synchronizing the countries' trade regulations, especially those on competition, customs inspection and country of origin.

"At the latest round of negotiations, the countries nearly reached agreement in the area of competition while also reaching consensus on the text of an agreement on electronic commerce, except on a few technical details," the ministry said.

The countries agreed to further "accelerate their negotiations to settle remaining issues," it added.

The next round will be held in July in South Korea. The negotiations for the South Korea-China FTA began in May 2012.

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