Posted May. 29, 2010 09:55,
Korea and China will conclude a joint study conducted by their governments, industries and academics on a bilateral free trade agreement that began in 2007.
Both sides will begin preliminary talks on sensitive issues, including the agro-fisheries sector, ahead of the main negotiations.
Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon and Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming held a meeting Friday and signed a memorandum of understanding to that effect. Under the deal, Seoul and Beijing will conclude the joint study on the free trade agreement that occurred five times between March 2007 and June 2008.
The two sides, however, will hold preliminary talks on sensitive issues first before directly going to main negotiations, which are considered the next phase following the study. They will hold prior discussion without the precondition of beginning the main talks.
Based on the results of the preliminary talks, they will decide whether and when to conduct the free trade talks. This could mean Seoul and Beijing will take a while before starting the main negotiations on a free trade deal.
A source at Kims office said, It is quite unusual that the two countries hold a separate phase for preliminary discussion before the main talks while concluding the industry-government-academic joint study.
This reflects the intent of the two sides to hold adequate talks, because the Korea-China FTA has such a huge impact and symbolic meaning.
On the MOU`s signing, one analyst says Korea and China have demonstrated their commitment to a free trade deal.
Kwon Hyeok-jae, a senior researcher at Samsung Economic Research Institute, said, The two sides couldnt end the joint study because theyve failed to narrow differences in agriculture and other sectors, but their decision to sign the MOU and hold further talks on sensitive issues can be seen as a solid commitment to sealing an FTA.