The Korea-China FTA concluded on Nov. 10 is highly meaningful not only as an economic breakthrough but also as diplomatic momentum on which the two countries can continue cooperating with each other to resolve sensitive issues such as North Korea's nuclear development. Also, the declaration of the conclusion of the deal after 30 months of effort is expected to result in greater exchange between Korea and China in the fields of economy, diplomacy, culture, and society.
Given that North Korea’s economic dependence on China is on the rise nowadays, it can be said that the agreement will serve the same purpose as President Park Geun-hye’s Eurasia Initiative for breaking the isolation of the North based on its ties with China.
Economic Cooperation, Exchange Brought to Another Level
“The recent announcement implies that the strength and density of the economic partnership between Korea and China are higher than ever before,” said the Presidential Office of Korea, adding, “During their summit talks, the two Presidents agreed on mutual development based on their very close strategic partnership.”
“Korea is one of the best neighbors and partners for China, and I would like to advance bilateral relations through dedicated and ongoing efforts,” Chinese President Xi Jinping also remarked, continuing, “The China-Korea FTA, which seeks a perfect balance between the national interests of both sides, is an important milestone for the Asia-Pacific region as a whole, as well as the economic development of both China and Korea.”
China is the largest trade partner and export destination for Korea, and Korea is the third-largest trade partner for China. This means that their cultural and human exchange will be boosted in the future along with economic cooperation. Korea’s conclusion of the free trade deal with a market 1.3 billion people large, ahead of other countries like Japan, can be a boon to Korea’s economic standing in the Asia-Pacific region and the international community’s efforts to deal with the low growth trend. It is expected to accelerate the economic integration in the region, too.
Closer Political, Diplomatic Ties
The FTA is predicted to contribute to closer political and diplomatic relations between the two sides as well. On the very day of the conclusion, Chinese President Xi Jinping reassured South Korea that China is against the nuclear development of the North in compliance with UN Security Council resolutions. He also mentioned that he would make more joint efforts with South Korea until Pyongyang gives up on its nuclear ambition by means of resumption of the six-party talks if necessary.
President Park, in response, said that the Korean government would seek various measures such as humanitarian aid, infrastructure assistance, and extensive private exchange in the framework of Korea-China collaboration. President Xi responded by saying that he supports peaceful reunification between the two Koreas based on dialogue.
In the meantime, some experts are pointing out that Korea needs to raise necessary questions as to China’s leadership and governance in the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) by taking the opportunity to take a bigger role and standing in the scheme. Also predicted is that the discussions of the trilateral FTA among Korea, China, and Japan and the Trans-Pacific Partnership led by the U.S. will gain speed through the signing of the Korea-China FTA.