"Every effort will be made to constantly listen to the opinions of farmers, fishermen and businesses that may be affected by market opening," he said.
The official said that with China's domestic market growing at a robust pace, there is a pressing need to formulate a strategy to capture market share ahead of increased competition, hinting that a FTA will give South Korea an extra advantage.
Related to the stance by the trade minister, Lee Dong-geun, the vice chairman of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, pointed out that China is already the world's No. 2 economy and the largest importer of South Korean goods.
"In the medium to long term, a South Korea-China FTA is inevitable," he claimed.
The business group leader, however, stressed that Seoul must try to win concessions from China in certain sectors that are vulnerable such as the farming and industries currently dominated by small and medium enterprises (SMEs).SMEs generally do not have the competitiveness of big conglomerates like Samsung and Hyundai, and could be hit hard if cheaper priced products pour into the country.
At the same time, Lee said negotiators need to get China to open its service and government procurement markets, as well as address non-tariff barriers and other complications, and administrative red tape that have hindered investments.
Other business groups such as the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association, the Korea Association of Machinery Industry and Korea Federation of Textile Industries concurred on the need for a FTA, yet called for various safeguards.
They called for special safeguards to legitimately stem sudden surges in cheap imports and measures to prevent unfair trade practices such as illegal undercutting of goods prices that can distort the market and hurt local firms. (Yonhap)