MANAGUA – Central American nations and South Korea expect to sign a free-trade accord by June 30, 2017, representatives of the parties said on Wednesday at the end of the final round of negotiations.
The proposed pact is consistent with the rules of the World Trade Organization, the governments of South Korea, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama said in a statement.
“We recognize that the accord will play an important role in the promotion of trade investment even as it improves the existing economic relations between the Central American countries and South Korea,” the parties said in the Declaration of Managua.
South Korea’s minister of Trade, Industry and Energy, Joo Hyung-hwan, who signed the declaration on Seoul’s behalf, said the countries are planning for the agreement to take effect on Jan. 1, 2018.
The negotiations began last year.
South Korea, Asia’s fourth-largest economy, has become an important trading partner for Latin America over the past two decades. Seoul has already signed free-trade pacts with Chile and Peru and is expected to conclude a deal with Colombia in the near future.
The volume of trade between Central America and South Korea has increased at an average annual rate of 16 percent during the last 20 years, according to figures from CAF – Development Bank of Latin America.