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2007/10/08 08:58 KST
S. Korea, ASEAN agree on free trade deal on services

   SEOUL, Oct. 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and Southeast Asian nations have reached a free trade deal on services, raising the possibility of finalizing free trade talks by the end of this year, South Korea's Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry said Monday.

   South Korea, Asia's third-largest economy, and nine of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been in negotiations to complete free trade talks on services and investment by year's end.

   The proposed free trade agreement between South Korea and ASEAN consists of four accords on merchandise, services, investment and dispute settlement. In June this year, their free trade deal on merchandise came into force.
Thailand was left out of the merchandise free trade deal due to differences over the proposed rice market opening. But the country came back to the negotiation table with South Korea in April, the ministry said.

   "South Korea held its 20th free trade talks with the ASEAN in Laos last week, and reached an agreement on services," the ministry said in a statement.

   South Korea's trade with ASEAN, its fifth-largest trading partner, reached US$53.5 billion in 2005.

   South Korea currently has free trade agreements with Chile, Singapore, and the European Free Trade Association.

   A free trade deal with the United States is awaiting a parliamentary ratification. Seoul is also seeking similar trade deals with the European Union, Canada, India and Mexico.