SEOUL, June 27 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korea launched official talks on a free trade agreement (FTA) with Israel on Monday to discuss ways to boost bilateral economic exchanges and investment, the trade ministry said.
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said the first round of negotiations took place in Seoul, seven years after the two countries began discussions on starting FTA talks in 2009.
Both sides will discuss various trade issues involving manufactured goods, services and investment, as well as technology cooperation.
“South Korea and Israel have complementary economic structures so that an FTA will help the two countries expand bilateral trade and investment considerably,” South Korea’s top FTA negotiator Yeo Han-koo said. “South Korea will make efforts to expand cooperation with Israel in such diverse areas as startups, cutting-edge technologies and agriculture.”
FTA negotiations between Seoul and Jerusalem had been stalled for seven years but progress was made after South Korea’s vice trade minister visited Israel in May.
According to government data, two-way trade reached slightly over US$2 billion in 2015. Israel was South Korea’s 49th-largest trading partner. South Korea’s main export items include autos, wireless communication equipment and synthetic resins, while it imports mainly chipmaking equipment, and applied electronics products and parts.
Israel has signed free trade deals with 41 countries, including the United States. The country also has 3.5 percent of the world’s venture capital and is known for running a variety of support programs for tech startups.
South Korea has clinched a series of FTAs with major trading partners, including the U.S. and China, in recent years as part of its efforts to boost the growth of its export-reliant economy.