S. Korean, Chinese businesses united in calling for more trade, commerce

SEOUL, July 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korean and Chinese businessmen and trade promotion officials were united in calling for more trade and commerce between the neighboring countries at a bilateral economic forum held in Seoul on Friday.

The gathering, held on the sidelines of the summit meeting between President Park Geun-hye and her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, attracted 450 business leaders from the two countries.

Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) chairman Park Yong-man, the host of the gathering, said the agreement to set up a direct won-yuan exchange market marks a leap forward.

Seoul and Beijing announced Thursday that they will launch a new two-way foreign exchange market to fuel trade and reduce losses caused by using the U.S. dollar as the medium of trade. They also expressed the need to conclude ongoing free trade agreement (FTA) talks within this year.

"The agreement by leaders to quickly conclude the FTA is a very encouraging development," Park said.

In the main forum panel session, Li Yanhong, the founder of China's largest web service company Baidu, said the center of the global Internet is moving toward China and South Korea, after being led by the United States since the 1970s.

He expressed hope that the two countries can cooperate in various fields to capitalize on each other's strengths. Li pointed out China has the world's largest Internet market, while South Korea is an on-line technology leader.

The CEO stressed that the Internet is creating new growth opportunities.

"By working more closely, South Korea and China can create a new era for the whole of Asia," he said.

Tian Guoli, chairman of the Bank of China, emphasized that closer cooperation between the two countries would play a critical role in stabilizing the regional financial market.

"The two countries played a pivotal role in stabilizing the market as can be seen in the cooperation displayed in the 1998 Asian financial crisis and the 2008 global meltdown," the banker said.

He pointed out that bilateral trade reached US$274.2 billion last year from just $6.4 billion in 1992, making it imperative for the two sides to work more closely with each other.

Liu Dianxun, director of China's commerce ministry's trade promotion office, stressed that China has consistently attracted more foreign investment than any other developing economy, and for the last three years it has attracted more than US$100 billion annually.

Beijing has taken steps to protect intellectual property rights and has proactively taken measures to treat foreign investors in the same manner as local entrepreneurs, he said.

"South Korea and China are close geographically and culturally so the two countries are in a good position to expand trade," the official said.

Close ties with South Korea will facilitate the use of the Chinese yuan as an international currency, he said.

Companies and financial institutions signed several agreements during the day aimed at expanding commerce and trade.

The Korea Exchange (KRX) and Bank of China said earlier in the day that they will develop financial products based on the Chinese yuan. This pact will allow the latter to act as the organization responsible for settling accounts. The two sides, moreover, agreed to work together when yuan-based financial products are traded on the South Korean exchange, and to explain Seoul's market conditions to Chinese companies and potential investors.

POSCO, the world's fourth-largest steelmaker, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with China's Chongqing Iron