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Korea, EU set to start FTA talks

Korea Times

Korea, EU Set to Start FTA Talks

By Kim Yon-se, Staff Reporter

16 July 2006

The chief of South Korea’s trade promotion agency Friday called for Korea to pursue a free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU) as soon as possible.

In a meeting with reporters in Paris, Lee Hee-beom, chairman of the International Trade Association (KITA), said he wants Korea push for an FTA with the EU if the European economic bloc wishes to negotiate one, adding, ``Korea has taken a wait-and-see attitude toward talks.’’

He visited France to attend an economic forum celebrating the 120th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Seoul and Paris.

An FTA would be mutually beneficial since there is a shared sensitivity toward opening up agricultural markets, he said. ``Currently, the EU levies higher tariffs on manufactured goods compared to the United States.’’

According to the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP), a Korea-EU FTA would boost Korea’s gross domestic product by 24 trillion won in the long run, and increase the number of jobs by 597,000.

The think tank also said it would boost exports by $11 billion and imports by $8.2 billion, leading to a trade surplus of $2.8 billion.

KITA Chairman Lee went on to say that it is crucial for South Korea to ink an FTA with the U.S. as the entire world is paying attention to the ongoing talks between the two nations. ``A failure to do so would likely deal a blow to the nation’s external credibility.’’

``It would only be natural for South Korea, which has already entered key markets around the globe, to pursue FTAs with larger markets such as the U.S., the EU, Japan and China,’’ he said.

South Korea and the U.S. wrapped up their first round of FTA negotiations in Washington last week, and the next set of talks is slated for Seoul July 10-14. They aim to reach an agreement before the U.S. president’s trade promotion authority requires renewal by Congress in July next year.

South Korea has signed trade pacts with Chile and Singapore. It has been seeking similar deals with Japan, Canada and the regional bloc of Southeast Asian Nations to boost its exports.