South Korea’s cabinet approves the free trade agreement (FTA) with Colombia, bringing both countries one step closer to the implementation of the agreement, local media reported Tuesday.

The two countries will formally sign the agreement on February 21, after which the FTA will be submitted to both parliaments for legislative approval.

Colombia’s ambassador to South Korea, Jaime Alberto Cabal, claimed that the agreement would be “very positive for Colombia.”

Under the FTA, within ten years of its implementation tariffs on 96.1% of Colombian and 96.7% on Korean goods will be removed.

The agreement is expected to come into force no later than by the end of the first half of 2013.

The comprehensive accord covers 22 sectors, including commodities, trade, investments, services and intellectual property rights. The two sides will be able to lift more than 96 percent of tariffs within 10 years if the pact goes into effect.

“South Korea will export commodities to Colombia, while importing raw materials and natural resources. The two economies are complimentary,” Korean Trade Minister Bark Tae-ho told reporters months back. In athat the trade deal will further open the door to Latin American markets, according to Tae-ho.

Trade experts predict bilateral trade will soar when the deal takes effect. In 2011, bilateral trade hit approximately US$2 billion, a sharp increase from 2006 when it marked only US$1.1 billion.

Colombia is the fourth largest economy, as well as the third most populated country in Latin America. It was the only country that sent troops to South Korea during the Korean War (1950-53).

South Korea has signed the free trade agreement with several nations including the United States, the European Union and Chile.

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