GUATEMALA CITY – Various Guatemalan business chambers urged their government on Thursday to sign up to the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with South Korea as soon as possible, as every other Central American country has closed the deal and will initiate it in the last week of February.
The FTA is a “window of opportunity to strengthen multilateral trade,” the Guatemalan business chambers said at a press conference, urging the state to move towards negotiations with the Asian nation so that the deal could become effective quickly.
“We must make an effort so that Guatemala can maintain its leadership of regional commerce and take even more advantage of the opportunities which will be the result of the negotiations that have been held to achieve the FTA between Central America and South Korea,” said David Juarez, the Vice President of the Guatemalan-Korean Chamber of Commerce.
South Korea and Central American countries, excluding Guatemala, which continues trade relations with the Asian country bilaterally, concluded in November 2016 negotiations on the multilateral FTA, which is currently waiting for approval from the legislatures of the signatory countries.
In the last two decades, South Korea, Asia’s fourth biggest economy, has become an important trading partner of Latin American countries, with FTAs with Chile and Peru. It is also planning to ratify a deal soon with Colombia.
Some 75 percent of Central American exports to South Korea consist of goods from Costa Rica and Guatemala.
The director of the Guatemalan Association of Exporters, Fanny D. Estrada, said that since 88 percent of Guatemala’s total exports are made through 12 existing free trade agreements, these deals are the “indispensable tools to increase trade” rapidly.
According to business associations, Guatemala has not yet closed the FTA negotiations due to 15 tariff items requested by South Korea, including soft drinks, cement, plastics, paper and cardboard, footwear and metallurgy.
Guatemala’s exports to South Korea in 2017 (figures until November) stood at $123.3 million and imports totaled $321.3 million in the same period.