S Korea, China agree to sign free trade deal
Seoul: South Korea says it has agreed to sign a free trade deal with China that will remove tariffs on more than 90% of goods over two decades.
The announcement from South Korea's presidential office Monday came after South Korean President Park Geun-hye met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit being held in Beijing.
Negotiators held a 14th round of trade talks before Xi and Park met but failed to resolved outstanding issues.
A statement from South Korea's presidential office said Xi and Park declared that the agreement was now "virtually" reached. Xi said negotiations had made "significant progress."
South Korea's rice industry will not be included in the trade deal but trade in 70% of agricultural goods will be liberalized. China and South Korea began the trade negotiations in May 2012.
Two-way trade between China and South Korea was $229 billion in 2013.
Jee Mansoo, an economist at the Korea Institute of Finance, said the impact of the trade pact is unclear because the economic situation has changed since negotiations began.
Some South Korea industries that were expected to benefit from increased exports to China, such as steelmaking, are no longer likely to benefit because China has made strides in improving its domestic industries, he said.