S. Korea, EU likely to ink free trade accord next month

16:36, August 18, 2010      

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South Korea and the European Union ( EU) are expected to ink the bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) in October, South Korea's trade ministry said Wednesday.

"As for now, we expect the EU will be able to get the so-called 'mandate' in its September ministerial level meeting, which is in need of the final signing," Ahn Ho-young, deputy minister for trade, told a weekly briefing, saying both sides will be ready for the FTA sealing then.

The bilateral free trade deal, which was initialed late last year on tariff reduction and other related issues, has been going through a formal conclusion process since April.

With respect to the Seoul side, the deal earned the Cabinet approval earlier this weak, awaiting the presidential and parliamentary endorsements for the next steps.

On the other hand, the EU has to go through an agreement by its 27 member states before the deal goes into effect.

South Korea and the European Union (EU) officially launched the bilateral free trade negotiations in May 2007, with difference over industrial tariffs and auto trade initially hampering progress.

The two sides have held eight rounds of free trade talks, together with several inter-session meetings, for 26 months to narrow the gap in their stances over sensitive issues such as tariffs and a duty drawback system.

The EU have been South Korea's second-largest trading partner after China, with two-way trade reportedly reaching over 90 billion U.S. dollars, while it ranks South Korea's top investor state.

The FTA, if approved, will put South Korea as the EU's first free trade deal partner in Asia.

According to the state-run Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP), the FTA will boost South Korea's economy by expanding exports by 11 billion U.S. dollars and raising its economic growth by more than 3 percent.



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