SKorea hopes for quick FTA with EU

SEOUL, July 13, 2007 (AFP) - South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun called Friday, July 13 for a quick free trade deal with the European Union, describing it as another golden opportunity to make the Korean economy more competitive.


South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun called for a quick free trade deal with the European Union - Photo : Kim Kyung-Je/AFP

"We should make all-out efforts to conclude free trade talks with the EU," Roh told a meeting of economic ministers, according to his office.

South Korea can't afford to delay the deal "as other emerging economies are quickly catching up," he said.

The FTA deals "are expected to elevate Korea's economic system and competitiveness to the levels of the US and EU," he said.

Trade Minister Kim Hyun-Chong said a free trade pact with the EU could bring greater economic benefits than the deal signed last month by Washington and Seoul.

"The EU appears to be aggressive in talks with our side. We also hope for a quick deal," he said.

Asia's third largest economy and the world's biggest trading bloc began talks in May and will hold a second round starting July 16 in Brussels.

The EU was South Korea's second largest trading partner after China last year, with trade reaching 78.56 billion dollars. It is the biggest single foreign investor, committing 4.97 billion dollars last year alone.

At the first round in Seoul both sides agreed in principle to scrap about 95 percent of each other's tariffs on merchandise. South Korea's average tariff is 11.2 percent compared to the EU's 4.2 percent.

In its latest proposal, the EU offered to eliminate or phase out tariffs on 100 percent of goods within seven years, Kim said.

South Korea wants to gain more access to the EU market for auto parts, electronics and textiles. The EU wants Seoul to remove barriers on automobiles, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and cosmetics.

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