Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday called on China and the Republic of Korea (ROK) to speed up their negotiation on a bilateral free trade area (FTA). The negotiation has entered a key stage, and China hopes the two sides can speed up the process and reach an agreement with balanced interests as early as possible so as to benefit the two peoples, Li said. He made the remarks in a meeting with ROK Prime Minister Chung Hong-won on the sidelines of the annual conference of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) held in Boao in south China's Hainan Province. Li attended the opening ceremony on Thursday morning and delivered a keynote speech. Chung echoed Li, saying the ROK will join hands with China to further strengthen their cooperation in all areas, push forward the FTA negotiation process and promote the development and prosperity of the two countries. China and the ROK officially began their negotiations on an FTA in 2012. The negotiation process includes pattern bargaining and price negotiation. The two sides finished pattern bargaining in September 2013. Hailing the smooth development of China-ROK relations featuring political mutual trust, economic reciprocity and deepening cultural exchanges, Li said China is ready to work with the ROK for closer engagement and to expand their cooperation in areas such as trade, education, technology, culture and tourism.