The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) signed a trade services agreement with South Korea in Singapore Wednesday, moving closer to concluding a free trade agreement (FTA) with the regional grouping.
The economic ministers from ASEAN member countries and South Korea inked the deal, witnessed by leaders of these countries attending the 11th ASEAN-ROK Summit which was held here Wednesday.
Under the deal, companies will benefit from enhanced market access in sectors such as financial, adult education and environmental consultancy services sectors.
South Korea's offer goes beyond its World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments and is better than its offer under the current Doha Round negotiations, according to a statement by the 13th ASEAN Summit.
The deal on services is the second part of a four-step process to reach the FTA as early as 2009. Discussions on the investments agreement are on track and ASEAN and South Korea will aim to conclude the agreement in 2008.
The deal is the second regional services agreement for ASEAN. ASEAN signed the first one with China in January this year.
At the signing ceremony, foreign ministers from ASEAN and South Korea also signed a memorandum of understanding on establishing the ASEAN-ROK Center.