Trade officials in Seoul indicated Friday that South Korea and Colombia will soon conclude a free trade agreement.
The officials denied a news report that the two countries would declare the FTA concluded within next month, but said it was true that discussions are in the final stages.
“There still remain some issues which each side has a completely different stance on. Such issues should all be resolved in order to be able to reach a final agreement, so now is a difficult time to expect when it will be done,“ a Trade Ministry official said.
”But we have seen a great progress so far. We had the latest discussion this week in Colombia, and are now agreeing on a schedule for the next meeting,” the official told The Korea Herald, asking not to be named.
Local media reported Friday that the two countries would announce the settlement of the FTA after the G20 summit which will be held from June 18-19 in Mexico.
Colombia, which is rich in natural resources including oil, coal and nickel, is a core market in South America. It would be the third country on the continent to sign an FTA with Korea. The others are Chile and Peru.
South Korea’s automobile market is expected to benefit most from the FTA as a high tariff of 35 percent is currently imposed on South Korean-exported cars.
South Korea’s other major export items to Colombia include auto parts and plastics.
Coffee takes up the biggest proportion of imports from Colombia. About US$114 million worth of coffee was imported to South Korea last year. The current 8 percent tariff imposed on Colombian coffee beans will gradually be lifted once the FTA goes into effect. Other imported goods from Colombia include ferroalloy, copper and scrap iron.
The two countries are thought to be fine-tuning the terms of the pact in order to ensure a high-level of market openness.
Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Kim Sung-hwan visited Colombia from May 22 to 23 and met Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Calderon. The Colombian president said he hoped the relationship between the two countries would take another step forward by promptly completing the FTA negotiations.