South Korea and China Free Trade Agreement to Take Effect on December 20

Michael Song, Dec. 9, 2015, 8:53 a.m.

A free trade agreement between South Korea and China will come into force on Dec. 20, officials said Wednesday, and about six months after the two nations formally signed the deal aimed at slashing tariffs and other trade barriers. The South Korean Ambassador to China, Kim Jang-soo, and Chinese assistant commerce minister, Wang Shouwen, exchanged a diplomatic document that set the date for inaugurating the accord earlier in the day.

China is South Korea's biggest trading partner, but South Korea's exports to China dropped for a fifth straight month in November as the Chinese economy is rapidly cooling. Wang told Kim that he hopes bilateral trade between South Korea and China will improve in the wake of the free trade deal's implementation.

"In the year 2016, I hope that bilateral trade can show an upward movement as the China-South Korea free trade deal comes into force," Wang said. After about three years of negotiations, South Korea and China announced the "substantial conclusion" of the talks in November last year.

The deal will eventually remove tariffs on about 90 percent of goods between the two nations over the next two decades. China is South Korea's largest trading partner, as two-way trade stood at about US$290 billion last year.

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