S. Korea, China hold economic cooperation meeting after 2-year hiatus

BEIJING, South Korea and China on Friday held their first high-level economic cooperation meeting in two years following an improvement of bilateral ties damaged by a diplomatic feud over a U.S. missile defense system deployed in the South.

The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to closer economic and trade cooperation at the 22nd joint South Korea-China economic committee meeting in Beijing.

"I have high hopes for this meeting, since it is being held at this critical time for the two countries recovering their bilateral ties," South Korea's chief delegate, Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun, said at the opening of the meeting. The Chinese side was headed by Vice Commerce Minister Gao Yan.

Cho praised China's commitment to continuous reform and open-door policies, compliance with World Trade Organization rules and close cooperation with South Korea.

Gao, in return, highlighted the important role of the joint committee and praised the agreement reached by the two countries' leaders late last year to restore close cooperative relations.

"I am feeling a heavy sense of duty to follow up on the two leaders' agreement and push for the development of the two countries' economies. Therefore (we) should produce actual progress so as to live up to the agreement and the expectations of the two leaders," she said.

"I expect (we) can lay a solid foundation for future economic cooperation through these candid exchanges and bring bilateral economic ties to the next level," she added.

The meeting was last held in Seoul in April 2016 but was put on hold due to China's protests over the deployment of the U.S. defense shield Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD).

The diplomatic rift badly damaged South Korea's economic dealings with China, its biggest trading partner -- previously popular South Korean products and entertainers were boycotted and restricted in China.

South Korea requested that China take measures to address the difficulties South Korean businesses in China have faced in the wake of the THAAD feud, especially South Korean retail giant Lotte Group and the tourism, electric car battery and entertainment industries, the foreign ministry in Seoul said.

In response, China said it is consulting closely with government agencies and regional governments to resolve these issues and pledged further efforts to that end.

Also discussed during the meeting was how to strengthen bilateral collaboration on such matters as energy, trade of agricultural goods, intellectual property, the environment and public health, according to the ministry. Seoul called for Beijing to give special attention to easing fine dust pollution in South Korea and protecting the intellectual property rights of South Korean firms.

The meeting, which was attended by commerce and economic officials from both countries, also committed the two countries to increasing efforts to sign a South Korea-China-Japan free trade agreement at the earliest possible time.

The two sides jointly expressed concerns over worsening global protectionism, reaffirming their support for the multilateral trade regime centered on the World Trade Organization, the ministry added.

The vice ministerial committee meeting has been held regularly since 1993, a year after the neighbors formally established diplomatic relations.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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