S. Korea set to speed up efforts for free trade pacts with Latin American nations
By Kim Joo-young
SEOUL, Sept. 17 (Yonhap) — South Korea is ready to accelerate its efforts to sign free trade agreements (FTA) with Mexico and other Latin American countries, the country’s top economic policymaker said Monday.
"Following the conclusion of the Korea-Chile FTA in 2004, bilateral trade between these two economies has doubled," Finance Minister Kwon O-kyu said in an opening speech at the Korea-Latin America and the Caribbean Trade and Investment forum.
"Building upon these successful exchanges, we stand ready to accelerate FTA negotiations with Mexico."
Also, South Korea will soon begin negotiations for a trade pact with MERCOSUR, or the Southern Common Market, based on recent research on such an agreement, Kwon said.
South Korea and MERCOSUR, composed of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, began their joint research on the feasibility and benefits of the trade pact in mid-2005 and completed it in 2006.
South Korea’s exports to MERCOSUR, the world’s third-largest trade bloc, reached US$1.4 billion in 2003, accounting for 0.7 percent of its total export volume, according to government data.
In early August, South Korea also agreed with Mexico to resume free trade talks that were stalled over the level of tariff elimination on merchandise.
In 2006, South Korea exported $6.3 billion worth of goods to Mexico and imported $790 million worth, government data said.
The FTA with Chile, South Korea’s first, was signed in early 2003 and put it into effect a year later. The total bilateral trade volume has since more than tripled to over $5.38 billion in 2006 from some $1.56 billion in 2003, according to government data.
South Korea also has FTAs with Singapore, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) excluding Thailand, and the European Free Trade Association, which comprises Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
In early June, Seoul also signed a free trade pact with the United States that would be the largest free trade agreement for the U.S. since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994.
The U.S. is South Korea’s second-biggest export market, with trade between the two countries valued at $79 billion last year.
The pact needs legislative approval in both countries. If ratified, the agreement could generate $20 billion in bilateral trade in coming years.