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South Korea Targets FTAs With Emerging Markets

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

17 June 2013

At the latest ministerial meeting on international affairs, Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Hyun Oh-seok confirmed that South Korea will concentrate on the completion of additional free trade agreements (FTAs), particularly with emerging markets.

In his opinion, the international trade environment is becoming more complicated, with the promotion of FTAs by advanced economies, intense competition for trade leadership in East Asia, and the promotion of FTAs to develop emerging economies. Demands are also increasing domestically to have the benefits of reduced tariffs divided more equally, not only for large corporations and manufacturing, but also to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the service industry.

Hyun disclosed that the new South Korean Government will promote its FTA negotiations and trade policies to respond to the changing trade climate, and will reform government organizations to strengthen the connection between those and its other industrial policies.

In order to put these plans into practice, a "New Trade Roadmap" led by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy will put a strategy together in order to improve domestic industrial competitiveness and create jobs, and for South Korea to play the role of "lynchpin" in the East Asia region.

Given the number of FTAs it has concluded over three continents, South Korea has already earned the title of a "free trade agreement hub." Its Government understands that its economy relies on increasing its trade globally in order to continue growing, and will therefore continue its policy of "economic territorial expansion." South Korea reached the USD1 trillion mark for total annual trade for the second consecutive year in 2012, and is ranked 8th in the world for global trade.

Under its trade policy, South Korea is to continue negotiating agreements with as many of its trading partners as possible, while also re-examining the content of the FTAs it currently operates in order to consider updating their terms to provide further benefits, such as quickening the rate of tariff reductions.

In the Asian region, apart from the possible FTAs with China and Japan, which the Government sees as extremely important in spurring further economic growth, the Government is now looking to negotiate further higher-level trade treaties with selected Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries to boost South Korean exports and investment in the region.

Given the above, it was also said at the meeting that plans for the upcoming South Korea-Myanmar Economic Cooperation Joint Committee had assumed an additional relevance. As an Asian country with abundant natural resources and high growth potential, and given the newly-democratic Government's reforms and open market policies, the importance of economic cooperation with Myanmar appears to have greatly increased. Hyun is therefore to preside over the committee meeting.

TAGS: tax | business | free trade agreement (FTA) | Burma | tariffs | agreements | Korea, South | import duty | trade

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