Sat, Jul 07, 2012 - Page 14 News List

Taiwan, S Korea start investment treaty talks

NO CONFLICT:Talks over a possible investment pact with Taiwan and a free-trade agreement with China are ‘completely separate,’ a South Korean official said

AFP and Bloomberg, SEOUL

Taiwan and South Korea have begun talks on an investment treaty for the first time since diplomatic relations were broken 20 years ago, officials from the two countries said yesterday.

The first round of talks was held in Taiwan late last month, a spokeswoman for South Korea’s foreign ministry said.

Yonhap news agency and Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that the second round would be held in Seoul in October. The treaty would help protect private investment.

In Taipei, officials from the Ministry of Economic Affairs confirmed the two sides had engaged in talks over a bilateral investment protection treaty, the state-run Central News Agency (CNA) reported yesterday.

However, the Taiwanese officials declined to confirm if the two sides would conduct a second-round talk in October as reported by the South Korean newspapers, CNA said.

Bureau of Foreign Trade Director-General Chang Chun-fu (張俊福) said the two sides recently exchanged views about a future economic cooperation agreement. He did not elaborate, CNA said.

Meanwhile, a South Korean official yesterday said that reaching a free-trade agreement (FTA) with China “will not be easy” after three days of talks in Seoul.

“There were significant differences in opinion,” South Korean Deputy Trade Minister Choi Seok-young told reporters in Seoul, a day after he concluded discussions with his Chinese counterpart, Yu Jianhua (俞建華). The two sides exchanged “very basic views” on service and manufacturing criteria as well as domestic legal procedures.

He also confirmed the Chosun Ilbo report that Seoul held initial discussions with Taipei on June 21 and 22 on an investment treaty.

Full-scale talks will probably be held after October, he said.

“Preparations for an FTA with China and consultations with Taiwan over a possible investment treaty are completely separate,” Choi said, adding that China did not have any comment on the treaty with Taiwan.

China is South Korea’s biggest trade partner, amounting to US$221 billion last year, up 17 percent from 2010, according to South Korean trade ministry data.

Taiwan is South Korea’s seventh-largest trade partner and the South is Taiwan’s fifth largest. Bilateral trade last year reached US$32.9 billion, according to South Korean trade ministry data.

Additional reporting by staff writer

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