South Korea, India to Sign Free Trade Deal

Deal is designed to phase out tariffs on most goods between five and eight years after ratification

Ater three years of negotiations, South Korea and India will sign a free trade agreement officials said on August 4. The two sides will sign the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in Seoul on August 7, the foreign ministry said.

The CEPA is designed to phase out tariffs on most goods between five and eight years after ratification, according to ministry officials who refused to elaborate.

The deal is the first of its kind between South Korea, Asia's fourth largest economy, and the BRICS group of fast-growing developing economies, made up of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Two-way trade between South Korea and India was worth $15.56 billion last year, Seoul's official data shows. The new trade pact is expected to boost bilateral trade by as much as $3.3 billion a year, according to the state-run Korea Institute for International Economic Policy.

Yonhap news agency said the South Korean-Indian deal would take effect early next year after South Korea's parliament ratifies it. The two countries, which began negotiations in March 2006, initialled the deal in February this year.

South Korea is pursuing free trade pacts worldwide to promote its export-dominated economy. Last month the presidential office said Seoul had completed two years of negotiations with the European Union.

A free trade pact was signed with the U.S. in 2007 but needs ratification by the legislatures of both countries.

Seoul already has agreements with Chile, Singapore, the European Free Trade Association and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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