China invites more investment from S. Korea in key sectors

PHOTO: China invites more investment from S. Korea in key sectors

China's deputy commerce minister has encouraged more South Korean investment in the country's high-end manufacturing sector, its green industries, and its modern service industries.

Meeting senior officials from major South Korean enterprises, Wang Chao said that "steady economic ties between China and South Korea are not only important to both sides, but also to East Asian integration".

The South Korean representatives, meanwhile, urged the Chinese government to loosen limitations on foreign investment.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and South Korea.

Bilateral trade has increased from US$100 billion (S$122 billion) to US$200 billion in the past five years and is projected to reach US$250 billion this year, and meet a target of US$300 billion by 2015, according to Lee Kyu-hyung, ambassador of South Korea to China.

Wang said: "We will widen investment sectors for foreign companies, innovate the use of foreign direct investment and further improve the investment environment.

"We hope South Korean companies will cooperate more closely with Chinese enterprises in high-end manufacturing and the green sector, and increase their investment in China's modern services."

He added in particular that cooperation could provide more investment in the central and western regions of the country, as the Chinese government balances regional development and improves infrastructure in those areas.

South Korean investment in China has amounted to US$52.4 billion so far, and is China's seventh-largest source foreign direct investment.

Meanwhile, Chinese investment in South Korea totaled US$1 billion and "will further expand in the future", according to Wang.

China and South Korea pledged this week to speed up their Free Trade Area negotiations, after announced the beginning of negotiations in May.

China, Japan and South Korea agreed to open negotiations on a free trade agreement on Nov 20, aimed at creating a better environment for investment.

Wang Yun-jong, chairman of the Korea Chamber of Commerce in China, said: "South Korean enterprises in China hope the bilateral FTA can be signed as soon as possible and expect it will be a high-reaching agreement including tariff reduction, opening-up of the services sector and protection of intellectual property rights."

He also said he expected the Chinese government to loosen limitations on foreign investment in the cultural and creative industries, including the film industry, and that foreign investment in broadcasting could be allowed.

Kang Duk-soo, the chairman of STX Group, formerly Ssangyong Heavy Industries, called for equal treatment in governmental grants for complete equipment exports, while Nam Young-woo, president and CEO of LG Electronics (China) Co Ltd, urged the government to ease investment requirements on new energy car batteries.

Despite inflow of foreign investment in China dropping in 11 of the past 12 months, spending by South Korean companies increased by 15.1 per cent year-on-year to US$5.24 billion in the first 10 months, according to commerce ministry figures.