Visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday voiced support for South Korean businesses to expand investment in China, as the two Asian neighbors are seeking stronger economic ties.
"The governments and businesses of the two countries should seize the opportunity and make concerted efforts to constantly further cooperation in economy and trade," Xi said when addressing a forum on bilateral economic and trade cooperation in Seoul.
Xi proposed that the two countries take proactive measures to establish a bilateral free trade area at an early date, strengthen coordination in macro-economic policy, boost trade and investment facilitation and financial cooperation as well as jointly oppose trade protectionism.
The Chinese president also encouraged South Korean enterprises to participate in the construction of the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone, inaugurated last September as part of the country's ambitious reform strategy.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye said she envisioned a bilateral free trade area to promote cooperation in high-end industries, financial service industry, medical treatment and common research and development.
South Korea supports its enterprises in expanding investment in China, especially in China's central and western regions, while welcoming more Chinese investment in South Korea, Park said.
"The South Korean side is willing to actively participate in China's Silk Road Economic Belt initiative," Park said.
The proposal to build a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st-century maritime Silk Road, known as the "One Belt and One Road," were put forth by President Xi during visits to Central Asia and Southeast Asia in 2013.
Xi, who started the two-day South Korea trip Thursday, also visited an exhibition of Samsung and LG products on Friday, expressing hopes that the two South Korean industrial giants can continue to enhance exchanges and cooperation with China.
China and South Korea have witnessed rapid development of their relationship since the two countries forged diplomatic ties 22 years ago.
Trade between the two countries surpassed 270 billion U.S. dollars in 2013, an increase of 7 percent year on year, equaling South Korea's trade volume with the United States and Japan combined.
China is South Korea's No.1 trading partner, largest export destination and import source, and No.1 destination of overseas investment. South Korea is China's third largest trading partner based on the 2013 data and fifth largest source of foreign direct investment.