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Korea-China FTA in Services: How Far Can We Go in the Follow-up Negotiations?

Notwithstanding all the administrative work being undertaken at this moment, the Korea-China FTA negotation is not over yet. Indeed, both countries agreed to resume a second-stage negotiation on services and investment liberalization in two years after the current first stage agreement takes effect. So then, what can we expect in the second-stage negotiations? In the follow-up negotiations, both countries agreed to change the negotiating modality of liberalization in services and investment from the positive list approach to the negative list approach. In other words, in the second-stage negotiations, all services sectors are the subject of full liberalization unless otherwise stipulated. Another distinction of the Korea-China FTA from China’s previous FTAs is that financial and telecommunication services are dealt with in separate chapters. Currently, both countries have left room for further liberalization in two important enabling sectors in the second stage. So far, the second stage negotiations seem to have great potential to enable more liberalization based on the negotiation framework built in the first stage. Adopting the negative list approach seems a good starting point, with separate chapters for financial and telecommunication services. Notwithstanding its innate liberalizing nature, the negative list approach does not necessarily guarantee greater market access and further liberalization. Considering the first-stage negotiation outcomes and the current global economic stagnation, the services and investment follow-up negotiations can achieve a high level of liberalization if there is strong momentum for both countries to do so under a normalized economic environment.

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