SEOUL – South Korea and Mercosur agreed on Friday to launch formal negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement during a meeting in Seoul between the local government and representatives of the four countries that form the South American trade bloc.
South Korea – the fourth biggest economy in Asia – and Mercosur are set to start the talks in the second half of this year according to an agreement reached on Friday by the two sides, which are aiming to boost bilateral trade and investment through the FTA.
“This represents a significant step toward deepening the important relationship between the Mercosur Member States and the Republic of Korea,” representatives of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay said in a joint statement with South Korea after the meeting.
“Strengthening ties through enhanced trade and investment flows is an expression of our shared interest in prosperity and shared commitment to trade liberalization and open markets,” the statement added.
The South Korean trade ministry said in a statement that the FTA could boost Seoul’s exports of automobiles, auto parts and electronics to the member-states of Mercosur.
Mercosur – Southern Common Market in English – has a combined population of 290 million and a GDP worth $2.7 trillion, representing more than half of the economy of South America, according to data provided by the ministry.
In 2017, South Korean exports to Mercosur reached $6.6 trillion, mainly consisting of the products mentioned in the statement, while the country imported goods worth $4.52 billion from the bloc, mostly in the form of agricultural products and steel.
Mercosur, which recently began a dialogue to explore the possibility of an FTA with Singapore, also aims to negotiate a similar agreement with Japan, the second biggest economy of Asia and third biggest in the world, Brazilian foreign minister Aloysio Nunes Ferreira said during a visit to Tokyo last week.
Friday’s meeting was attended by Nunes Ferreira and his counterparts from Uruguay and Paraguay: Rodolfo Nin Novoa and Eladio Loizaga, apart from Argentina’s secretary of international economic affairs Horacio Reyser and the South Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong.