Washington, D.C., May 16 (CNA) The talks between China and South Korea on a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) will not be easy and it will be difficult to set a deadline for signing the pact, a South Korean negotiator said Wednesday.
Choi Seok-young, South Korean deputy foreign affairs and trade minister for free trade agreements, said his country expects the FTA to include deep tariff cuts on a wide range of products, unlike the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between China and Taiwan.
However, China may have different ideas, which means the negotiations will not be easy, he said after a speech at a think tank in the United States.
Under the ECFA between Taiwan and China, preferential tariffs on a limited number of items are being introduced in phases.
Choi said it is difficult to set a timetable for the China-South Korean pact as political factors may play a part in determining when the agreement will be signed.
The official's remarks were contrary to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's projection of a two-year timeframe in which to conclude the FTA.
Chen Deming, China's minister of commerce, also said in early May that he hoped the agreement could be signed in two years.
In related news, President Ma Ying-jeou and Kao Koong-lian, vice chairman of the Taipei-based Straits Exchange Foundation, have both expressed hopes of accelerating the follow-up ECFA talks to finish in two years, in view of the threat to Taiwan's place in the regional economy posed by a China-South Korea FTA.
Mainland Affairs Council spokesman Liu Te-shun said there is no timetable for the ECFA follow-up but both sides will keep working on it.
(By Chai Ssu-chia, Lin Shu-yuan and Jamie Wang)