China and the Republic of Korea (ROK) on Wednesday announced the beginning of negotiations for setting up a Free Trade Area (FTA), according to a press conference attended by Minister of Commerce Chen Deming and ROK Trade Minister Bark Tae Ho.
Chen said the first round of negotiations will be held in May, adding that he hopes the negotiations will be concluded within two years.
"The launch of the FTA negotiations will be conducive to the economic integration of north Asia and the prosperity and stability of the region as a whole," Chen said.
Bark Tae Ho said the two countries will start by finalizing modalities for trade in goods, services, investment and other areas, which will be an integral part of the agreement.
The two countries will spend the rest of the negotiations covering multiple sectors on the basis of these modalities and conclude the negotiations as a single undertaking, according to Bark Tae Ho.
Both ministers agreed that the level of liberalization for trade in goods and services should go beyond each country's commitment to the World Trade Organization.
Meanwhile, they said a normal track and a sensitive track will be established to address sensitivities in the area of trade in goods.
Bilateral trade between the two countries has witnessed strong growth during the past two decades, with bilateral trade volume rising 18.6 percent year-on-year to 245.6 billion U.S. dollars last year.
China has become ROK's largest trading partner, while ROK ranks as China's fourth-largest foreign investor.