South Korea, Central American nations sign free trade agreement

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Seoul, Feb 21 (IANS) South Korea on Wednesday signed a free trade deal with Panama, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica, the East Asian country’s Trade Ministry said.

The pact was sealed by the South Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-Jong, his counterparts from Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Alexander Mora and Orlando Solorzano, respectively, Salvador’s Economy Minister Tharsis Salomon Lopez, Honduras’ Economic Development Minister Arnaldo Castillo and Vice Minister of International Trade for Negotiation of the Ministry of Trade of Panama, Diana Salazar.

Kim in a statement said that the South Korea-Central America free trade deal would enable the countries to build more comprehensive, strategic partnerships, Efe news reported.

The statement added that South Korea is the first country to sign a trade agreement with five Central American nations, paving the way for South Korean companies to expand their foothold in the market ahead of their Chinese and Japanese rivals.

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The free trade agreement, which will eliminate duties on over 95 per cent of traded goods and open up the service and investment markets, will allow the five Central American nations to have preferential access to South Korea for their agricultural, marine and textile products.

The agreement is expected to ease South Korea’s electronics and automobile exports to the Central American nations, the report said.

Negotiations on the deal started in June 2015 and it will now be sent to Parliaments of the signatory countries for ratification.

Guatemala and South Korea were negotiating separately concerning the former’s adhesion to the free trade agreement in future.

–IANS

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