President Park Geun-hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed Thursday to speed up bilateral free trade talks so they can strike a deal by the end of this year.
Negotiations date back to 2012 but the two countries are at odds over removing tariffs on sensitive items -- agricultural and fishery products for Seoul and petrochemical, steel and machinery goods for Beijing.
If and when it goes into effect, the deal is expected to boost trade between the two countries, which stood at 230 billion U.S. dollars last year.
"We set a goal of reaching a bilateral trade volume of 300 billion dollars by 2015 and agreed to provide improved conditions."
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Presidents Park and Xi also agreed to allow direct transaction of their local currencies as early as possible.
Only one percent of Korean companies with enough yuan can currently settle their trading bills with Chinese partners in the Chinese currency but once the deal takes effect, there will be no need to convert it into the U.S. dollar.
"I'm so happy about our great achievements in establishing a bilateral financial infrastructure, including opening up won-yuan direct trading, designating a yuan clear bank in Korea and granting Korea Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor status."
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Direct won-yuan trading is expected to help internationalize the Chinese currency and cut Korean traders' business costs with China by at least three to five percent.
Hwang Sung-hee, Arirang News.
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