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(LEAD) S. Korea says it 'virtually' reaches free trade deal with China

All Headlines 11:29 November 10, 2014

(ATTN: UPDATES with details of deal)
By Kim Kwang-tae

BEIJING, Nov. 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and China "virtually" reached a free trade deal on Monday during a meeting between their leaders, a South Korean official said, a move that could further boost their bilateral trade.

The agreement came two and a half years after the two sides began negotiations on a free trade agreement.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye and her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping observed the signing of a free trade deal after their summit at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, the official said.

Still, the two sides plan to work out details of the deal within this year before holding a formal signing ceremony early next year, according to the official.

The deal covers products, services, investment, finance and communications and other areas, though the two neighbors agreed to exclude rice, a key staple food for both countries, from the deal.

Park said in an interview with China's BTV aired late Sunday that a successful conclusion of a free trade deal between South Korea and China could further boost discussions on economic integration in Asia and the Pacific region.

When they met in Seoul in July, Park and Xi had agreed to strengthen efforts to achieve a deal before the end of the year. China is South Korea's largest trading partner.

Trade volume between South Korea and China, Asia's fourth-largest and the world's second-largest economies, respectively, stood at US$228.9 billion last year, according to South Korean data.

China fought on North Korea's side against South Korea and the U.S.-led U.N. forces in the 1950-53 Korean War, but has been economically drawn to South Korea in recent decades.


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