SEOUL, Feb. 14 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea’s finance minister said Thursday that Seoul will push for talks with Britain on forging a bilateral free trade deal, citing London’s imminent departure from the European Union.
The comments by Hong Nam-ki, the minister of economy and finance, underscored South Korea’s efforts to keep intact its economic ties with Britain, one of its major trading partners.
Hong did not provide a specific timeframe for when the two sides would launch talks.
Britain is set to leave the European Union on March 29, meaning South Korean firms could no longer enjoy the benefits provided under the free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU when trading with Britain.
South Korean exports to Britain came to US$6.4 billion and its imports from Britain stood at $6.8 billion in 2018, according to the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Energy.
South Korea has clinched a series of FTAs with major trading partners, including the United States, the European Union and China, as well as Chile, Peru and Colombia, in recent years as part of its efforts to boost growth in the country’s export-driven economy.
Hong also said Seoul will hold preliminary unofficial talks with major countries of the Pacific trade pact to better cope with uncertainties in global trade, though he said discussions do not necessarily mean the country would join the open trade agreement.
The deal — dubbed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership — aims to slash tariffs on goods to stimulate trade among Japan, Canada and nine other countries.
Other member states are Australia, Mexico, Vietnam, Malaysia, Chile, Peru, New Zealand, Singapore and Brunei. The countries represent 13.5 percent of global gross domestic product equal to US$10 trillion.
Of the CPTPP members, South Korea does not have free trade agreements with Japan or Mexico.