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South Korea Says Reaching China Free Trade Deal Won’t Be Easy

South Korea said reaching a free trade agreement with China “will not be easy” after three days of talks in Seoul.

“There were significant differences in opinion,” Deputy Trade Minister Choi Seok Young told reporters today in Seoul, a day after he concluded discussions with Chinese counterpart Yu Jianhua. The two sides exchanged “very basic views” on service and manufacturing criteria and each other’s domestic legal procedures.

He also confirmed an report today by the Chosun Ilbo newspaper that South Korea held initial discussions with Taiwan on June 21-22 in Taipei over a bilateral investment treaty. Full-scale talks probably will 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 a total of $221 billion in 2011, a 17 percent increase from the previous year, 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 with Taiwan in 2011 was $32.9 billion, according to South Korean trade ministry data.

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