China and South Korea to sign free trade deal

Container port in S Korea Image copyright Reuters

China and South Korea are set to sign a free trade agreement that aims to remove most barriers to trade between the countries.

Leaders from both nations confirmed a conclusion had been reached after talks that spanned more than two years.

The deal is expected to be signed on Monday and covers 17 areas such as e-commerce, Chinese officials said.

China is South Korea's largest trading partner and their bilateral trade grew to $228.9bn (£143bn) in 2013.

South Korea has been running a trade surplus with China since 1993, and the surplus was $62.8bn last year, according to South Korean data.

"South Korean and Chinese leaders today declared an effective conclusion of the FTA at a summit meeting held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing," said a statement from Korea's presidential office, referring to a meeting of South Korean President Park Geun-hye with China's President Xi Jinping at the Apec summit.

Local media reports said the deal included a move to remove tariffs on over 90% of goods in the next two decades.

With China and South Korea the world's first and seventh largest exporters respectively, a tie-up between the two is key for the region's economic growth.

South Korea, Asia's fourth largest economy, already has trade agreements with the European Union and the US.

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