Chinese FM Wang Yi's SK trip highly anticipated to promote regional FTA talks
Published: Nov 25, 2020 11:30 PM

File photo:CGTN

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi began his visit to South Korea on Wednesday following his trip to Japan with concrete achievements.

Analysts from both countries expect Wang to further promote the implementation of regional free trade talks and keep the momentum of bilateral ties going amid the pandemic and growing uncertainties brought by the US' transition.

After wrapping up his trip in Japan, Wang arrived in South Korea on Wednesday. Wang and South Korean President Moon Jae-in will have their "first meeting in about a year on Thursday," South Korean Yonhap News reported.

Moon and Wang will likely discuss the possible opening of a trilateral summit of the leaders of South Korea, China and Japan, the situation on the Korean Peninsula and relations between Beijing and Washington, the news agency said. 

"Cooperation is the key word for Wang's visit in South Korea, and it also fits into South Korea's expectations," Hwang Jaeho, a professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, told the Global Times.

China's promotion of the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), its openness to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and its work on facilitating talks on the China-Japan-S.Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) show China is fulfilling its promise of multilateralism and globalization, Hwang said. 

The expert noted that Moon's recent policies in boosting the economy, which needs to expand trade exchanges with other countries, could work better with China's "dual circulation" plan on connectivity with the outside world.

Some observers believe that there is much overlap between the South Korea's "New Northern Policy" and the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative. Promoting the economy and trade with South Korea can further boost the economic development of Northeast Asia.

A report released by a South Korean trade association in October said enterprises think exports to ASEAN countries and China are expected to lead total exports in the last quarter of 2020. Amid the coronavirus recession, China's investment to South Korea in the third quarter reached $1.25 billion, an increase of 172.5 percent compared to the same period last year.  

Zheng Jiyong, director of the Center for Korean Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, told the Global Times that Wang's visit to South Korea is also expected to boost the development of the China-Japan-S.Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Negotiations on the FTA have been going on since 2012. Zheng said the signing of RCEP before Wang's visit has provided a new opportunity for the three-country FTA.

Observers also noted that the China-Japan cooperation pact just made will add momentum to China-South Korea talks, and regional cooperation would benefit everyone. 

The good momentum in bilateral ties have been carried on since the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic, with China and South Korea showing support to each other, and Wang's trip is expected to further strengthen the ties, Hwang said, noting that compared to previous Chinese top diplomats' visits, Wang would also meet with celebrities in South Korea to improve public diplomacy. 

Relations between Beijing and Washington would also likely be a topic for Wang and Moon, Yonhap News reported. 

Hwang said that Joe Biden is expected to stress multilateralism and give more respect to US allies, a switch from current policies. The transition period for Biden is likely to be long and may be hindered by Trumpism. 

Moon adheres to multilateralism, not simply taking sides between major powers. Despite being a US ally, South Korea would not follow all its requests, observers said.

"Although facing pressure, South Korea did join the blame game against China at the beginning of COVID-19… South Korea prefers to be the force to reconcile tensions between China and the US," Hwang said. 

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