South Korea wants to open free trade talks with the European Union and China as soon as next year, President Roh Moo-Hyun said Nov. 2. At a meeting with foreign businessmen at the Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), Roh said his country is determined simultaneously to push for a number of free trade agreements (FTA).
State-run KOTRA has said a free trade agreement with the EU would bring Seoul greater benefits than a similar trade pact with the U.S. now being negotiated.
Exports to Europe of automobiles, electronic goods and computer-related products in particular will increase sharply if a free trade deal is concluded, it said in a research report published in June. The Korea Institute for International Economic Policy says an FTA with the EU would boost South Korea's gross domestic product by two to three percentage points. It would also increase South Korea's exports to the EU by $11 billion and imports from there by $8.2 billion. South Korea's shipments to the EU stood at $43.7 billion last year, while imports reached $27.3 billion.
South Korea, which has completed FTAs with Chile and Singapore, has been in tough talks with the U.S. on a deal which would be the largest for the U.S. since the North American Free Trade Agreement. The two sides took a "big step forward" in talks that ended in the southern island of Jeju last month but lengthy negotiations will still continue into next year, a top U.S. official said.
South Korea is also studying the possibility of similar agreements with Japan, Canada, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, India and Mexico.
Copyright Agence France Presse, 2006