South Korea's business lobby group said Tuesday that it supports the country's push for signing a free trade deal with China as it can help domestic firms make inroads into the world's largest consumer market.
"China strongly wants the signing of the FTA with (South) Korea, and our business circles have no reason to oppose to it. We have the stance that the deal should be reached hurriedly," Lee Dong-geun, vice chairman of the Korea Chamber of Commerce Industry (KCCI), told reporters at a briefing to explain the results of visit to China.
Lee noted that the Sino-South Korea free trade agreement (FTA), if concluded, would greatly help South Korean companies tap into the China's domestic market. Lee also said that the expected removal of trade barriers would create more opportunities for business in China.
A group of 71 business leaders, to whom the KCCI vice chairman belonged, accompanied South Korean President Park Geun-hye on her four-day trip to China. The number was higher than the 36 businessmen in 2008 when former President Lee Myung-bak visited China and the 51 in May when President Park traveled to the United States.
Chinese President Xi jinping and his South Korean counterpart Park agreed at the summit to push for the completion of the bilateral free trade pact, reconfirming the goal of reaching a high-level and comprehensive trade deal.
The two countries will hold the sixth round of FTA talks for three days through Thursday in South Korea's largest port city of Busan. The formal negotiations for Sino-South Korea FTA were launched in May 2012.
Vice Chairman Lee said that China "turned from the world's factory into the world's market", noting that business strategy toward China has accordingly changed to directly make inroads into the China's domestic market from exporting components that will be assembled in China to be re-exported to advanced nations.
Annual trade between Seoul and Beijing has increased around 40 times to 256 billion U.S. dollars in 2012 from 6.3 billion dollars in 1992 when the two countries forged diplomatic relations. China has overtaken the U.S. for several years as South Korea's biggest trading partner.
Around 20,000 South Korean companies are reportedly operating in China.