China and South Korea said yesterday they would formally begin negotiations on a free-trade agreement, Chinese state media reported, with the talks expected to take two years.
Chinese Minister of Commerce Chen Deming (陳德銘) and South Korean Minister for Trade Park Tae-ho made the announcement in Beijing, Xinhua news agency reported. It did not say when the talks were expected to start.
The two sides agreed in January to launch formal talks after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak visited China.
China is South Korea’s largest trading partner and Beijing forecasts trade between the two sides will reach US$300 billion by 2015, up from US$245.6 billion last year, according to Chinese customs data.
Chen said the free-trade agreement would cover goods, services, intellectual property rights and investment, among other areas, Chinese state radio reported.
The report said the talks would also include “sensitive” areas of the two economies, such as South Korea’s agricultural sector and China’s petrochemical, electronics and machinery industries.