Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - S Korea: New Trade Minister seeks breakthrough in FTA talks

S Korea: New Trade Minister seeks breakthrough in FTA talks

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The graphic shows the major FTA partners of South Korea. The Korea Herald/ANN

S Korea: New Trade Minister seeks breakthrough in FTA talks

SOUTH KOREA is in negotiations for four different free trade agreements (FTAs) involving 19 countries.

The four are talks on a joint agreement with China and Japan (2 countries); with China, Japan, India, Australia, New Zealand and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (15); with Ecuador (1); and with Israel (1).

As a developed process, South Korea has signed a preliminary pact with five Central American countries – Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama – which made it the first Asian country to reach a bilateral deal with the Central American trade bloc. Guatemala might join the FTA later.

Analysts share the view that successful results for the four ongoing talks and fast-track effectuation of the Korea-Central America FTA are dependent upon the commerce-related strategies of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

Despite its deals with 15 trade blocs including 52 partner countries, starting with the Korea-Chile FTA in April 2004, South Korea had failed to reach a consensus in some past negotiations with partners like Mexico and the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain.

The export-oriented business sector is pinning hopes on the coming performance of Minister for Trade Yoo Myung-hee who took office in February.

Yoo, 52, is drawing attention for her career as a civil servant for the commerce-focused foreign affairs sector since she passed the Higher Civil Service Examination in 1991.

For her recent activity, Yoo as then-Deputy Minister for Trade led the country’s delegation during the 14th round of negotiations for a Korea-China-Japan free trade agreement, held in Beijing in December.

Concerning the former talks with Mexico, Yoo has commented on the little progress despite efforts for consensus since 2006. “[As a substitute, South Korea] is pushing to enter as a quasi-member of the [Pacific Alliance], which will [produce similar] results as signing an FTA with Mexico.”

The Pacific Alliance (PA) is a trade bloc, composed of Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Peru, launched in June 2012. Its collective population and gross domestic product come to 210 million and $2 trillion, as the world’s ninth-largest continental bloc.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Yoo Myung-hee, South Korean Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy.

The PA designated four countries such as Singapore and New Zealand as quasi-members in 2017.

Yoo also earlier expressed her the stance that “the necessity for a Korea-China-Japan tripartite FTA is gradually growing amid the commerce hurdles under recent protectionism [across the globe]”.

The ongoing talks with the 15-country bloc is dubbed the “Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership” (RCEP) and seeks the gradual opening of markets among 16 Asia-Pacific countries – South Korea, Japan, China, India, Australia, New Zealand and the 10-member Asean.

But the 16 countries have faced a deadlock in progress for the RCEP. For a breakthrough, Minister Yoo said the government is moving to initially sign bilateral pacts with three Southeast Asian countries – Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

The market is focusing on the new minister’s “flexible” strategies, according to an analyst in Seoul’s Yeouido. “A point would be a success in diversification of trade partners in the coming years, as the government has continued to pledge,” he said.

The Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) welcomed the Trade Ministry’s policy toward diversification.

During a joint forum with the Trade Ministry in October, KCCI managing director Kang Ho-min said: “Protectionism could trigger a structural crisis in our economy, which has a high external dependency ratio.”

In light of such concerns, the government is keeping a close watch on tariff disputes between economic powerhouses, as the Korean economy is highly dependent on trade with China – its largest trade partner – and the US.
Furthermore, trade volume with three countries – China, the US and Japan – takes up more than half of the total.

In addition, businesses in the private sector are pinning hopes on the government’s upcoming trade talks, which could pull up the ratio of trade volume with countries like Saudi Arabia (Korea’s ninth-largest trade partner), Russia (12th), the UAE (16th) and Iran (20th). THE KOREA HERALD/ANN


  • Draft law on state of emergency pending finalisation

    Prime Minister Hun Sen will lead a top-level meeting on Tuesdays to review the draft law on imposing a state of emergency. Meantime, he has decided to close all casinos in Cambodia effective April 1. In the press conference after the National Assembly met today, Hun

  • State of emergency on table amid pandemic

    Prime Minister Hun Sen, his deputy prime ministers and legal team will meet on Tuesday to review the draft law on declaring a state of emergency, as Covid-19 cases rose to 107 in the Kingdom on Monday. Speaking at a press conference after a parliament meeting

  • Stranded passengers petition UK for help

    Some 10,521 people have signed an online petition calling on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and relevant officials to fly nearly 200 passengers out of Cambodia. The petition is targeted at 15,000 people. Most of the passengers are British nationals, who are stranded in Cambodia after airlines cancelled

  • No word on state of emergency

    The National Assembly (NA) said it will postpone all unnecessary meetings in line with guidance from the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) amid the Covid-19 pandemic. However, it did not say when or how it will debate the “state of emergency”

  • Many in limbo as tension heightens

    As the Kingdom restricts travel and prepares for a state of emergency, some foreigners in Cambodia are scrambling for a way home. Foreign embassies in Phnom Penh are making efforts to get their citizens out, but cancelled flights have become common due to the coronavirus

  • Covid-19 Pandemic: Force majeure and legal consequences

    Is the Covid-19 pandemic considered an event of force majeure? The World Health Organisation declared the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak a pandemic on March 11. Following this declaration, the Ministry of Health and other ministries have taken various legal and administrative measures to prevent the rapid