South Korea struck chain free trade agreements with six Latin American countries -Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama and Guatemala, the trade ministry said.
The Korea-Central America free trade agreement (FTA) is the first trade accord in the region and paves wider ways for Asia`s fourth-largest economy to tap into the American continent, where Korea’s FTA networks already spans from the United States and Canada to three South American countries of Chile, Peru and Colombia.
Under the deal, South Korea and the six countries agreed to eliminate tariffs on about 95 percent of goods made from each country immediately or gradually after the deal goes into effect. The six countries also agreed to open their market to Korea’s key exports cars, steel and synthetic resins, as well as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and aloe drinks, textiles and car parts.
South Korea will phase out tariffs on Central America-produced coffee, sugar and tropical fruits immediately or gradually. Agricultural products such as rice, red pepper, garlic and onions were excluded from trade concession, and tariffs on beef and port will be phased out over a long period of time to minimize damage to Korean farmers.
In addition, South Korea’s approach to entertainment, logistics and construction in the Central American countries will be improved, while the government procurement market will be open to Korean companies.
The countries will have an official signing in the first half of next year after follow-up discussions. After signing, the free trade agreement will be submitted to the countries` respective legislatures for ratification.
By Ko Jae-man
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