China and South Korea have signed a transport agreement that would speed trade in fresh food and electronics by allowing semi-trailers loaded with cargo to be shipped between the two countries, the Xinhua news agency said.

The deal would cut transport time by 3.5 hours and reduce costs by $50 per container, since the trailers can be driven directly to customers without costly unloading and loading at ports, Xinhua said, citing South Korea’s Transport Research Institute.

It was signed in Weihai, a port in Shandong province, the region that is the source of many Chinese agricultural exports to South Korea.

Semi-trailers loaded with cargo can be shipped between the Chinese ports of Qingdao, Rizhao, Yantai, Weihai, Longyan and Shidao in Shandong, and the South Korean ports of Incheon, Pyongtaek and Kunsan.

It takes effect next year, and could be expanded to include trailers as well as ports in Liaoning province, on the northern coast of the Bohai Sea, which separates China from South Korea. The agreement is expected to increase the transport of fresh vegetables, live fish and products such as glass and electronics, Xinhua said, citing Weng Mengyong, vice minister of China’s Ministry of Transport.

China is South Korea’s largest trading partner. (Reuters)