In January 2012, the South Korean and Chinese presidents announced that they were moving towards negotiating a bilateral agreement between the two countries. In March 2012, the three countries concluded an investment agreement between them, seen as a step towards a broader free trade agreement. In May 2012, China and Korea held their first round of negotiations for a free trade agreement in Beijing. With regard to market opening, China and South Korea will treat each other`s financial firms, simplifying the authorisation process and reducing barriers to access to financial markets on both sides. The agreement also provides that Korean construction companies can allocate cooperation projects in the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Area, without being limited by the share of foreign investment (more than 50% foreign investment). The Chinese side plans to allow Korean travel agencies to recruit and visit South Korea in China.  Three years after the start of the negotiations, China and South Korea have officially signed a free trade agreement. Chinese Trade Minister Gao Hucheng and South Korean Trade Minister Yoon Sang-jick took over the document in Seoul on Monday, with Presidents Xi Jinping and Park Geun-hye sending letters expressing support and commitment to the agreement. The agreement is even more important if we consider it as a springboard. China also intends to conclude a trilateral free trade agreement that binds to itself, South Korea and Japan; The Free Trade Agreement between China and South Korea is a useful element of these efforts. More ambitiously, Beijing will conclude negotiations this year on the Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership (RCEP), a trade agreement that binds the ten ASEAN member countries to China, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand. The RCEP is often read in direct opposition to the United States for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Meanwhile, Chinese researchers say the new free trade agreement with South Korea “represents a higher level of liberalization and market opening” than all other free trade agreements negotiated by China. An unnamed South Korean official appeared to approve and told Yonhap that the free trade agreement with South Korea showed that China “accepted its deal and opened it up to international standards.” Although China and South Korea have other free trade agreements on their books, this agreement is of unique importance. China is already South Korea`s largest trading partner and Seoul expects the agreement to produce one-off dividends across trade relations. The free trade agreement with South Korea is also China`s largest of its kind in terms of trade volumes. The agreement was reached more than six months ago, in November 2014.