S. Korea, ASEAN sign FTA on services

Korea Times | 11-21-2007

S. Korea, ASEAN Sign FTA on Services

By Kim Yon-se
Korea Times Correspondent

SINGAPORE — South Korea signed an agreement on the services sector with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) here Wednesday.

Following the summit between President Roh Moo-hyun and 10 ASEAN leaders, Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon and 10 commerce ministers from the Southeast Asian countries signed the services free trade deal.

The deal is the third part of a four-step process to reach a ``full’’ Korea-ASEAN FTA by next year.

The two sides signed an agreement on ``basic items’’ and ``goods’’ in August 2006 (first step) and an agreement on ``dispute resolution systems’’ in December 2005 (second step). The agreements went into effect in June 2007.

They are scheduled to sign the last-step accord on ``investment’’ next year.

``The government believes in the importance of the Southeast Asian bloc _ South Korea’s fifth-largest trade partner,’’ an aide to President Roh said. ``Concluding an early FTA is needed because ASEAN is also seeking deals with our major trade competitors.’’

The government believes the two sides agreed on a high level of liberalization, saying that it will free up to 97 percent of all items of goods, while tariffs for 90 percent will be eliminated in stages by 2010.

The agreement will also create a market of 548 million people with a combined economy of more than $1.4 trillion.

A kind of joint declaration signed between leaders from each side, the framework agreement forms the basic structure of the South Korea-ASEAN FTA which would also benefit goods made in the inter-Korean industrial park in the North Korean border city of Gaeseong.

Aside from the signing of the services deal, Korea and the 10 Southeast Asian countries signed a memorandum of understating (MOU) on establishing the Korea-ASEAN Center, which will be built in Seoul.

Through the center, the two sides will seek expansion of trade volume, promotion of tourism and cultural exchanges.

Before the signing of the FTA, Roh and 10 ASEAN leaders agreed to cooperate in resolving the North Korean denuclearization issue and to expand ties in various fields such as regional security.

Roh also discussed countermeasures against environmental and climate issues during the third East Asian Summit (EAS) which includes leaders from India, Australia and New Zealand.

``The EAS leaders exchanged views on sustained regional development, global disasters and cooperation on environmental crises,’’ said Roh’s spokesman Cheon Ho-seon.

source: Korea Times