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AFP/ 30 April 2009
Seoul – South Korea will move closer to a full free trade deal with Southeast Asian nations when an agreement on opening up the services sector comes into force on Friday, officials said.
The trade ministry said the agreement involves six of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) – Singapore, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei.
Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Indonesia are expected to complete internal procedures soon regarding the services pact, it said.
South Korea and Asean have been in negotiations to complete free trade talks on four accords, pertaining to merchandise, services, investment and dispute settlement.
In 2006 Seoul forged a deal with Asean countries, excluding Thailand, to free up merchandise trade by 2010. Thailand joined in February this year after disagreements on the rice trade were resolved.
In April both sides reached agreement on bilateral investment.
Two-way trade was worth US$90.2 billion (S$134 billion) last year, 10.5 per cent of South Korea’s total trade volume.
Seoul in recent years has sought numerous free trade pacts to bolster its export-dominated economy. It already has deals with Chile, Singapore and the European Free Trade Association.
A pact signed by Seoul and Washington almost two years ago awaits ratification by both legislatures.
South Korea is also in FTA talks with the European Union, Canada, India and Mexico, while it has agreed to open preparatory discussions with Australia and New Zealand.