SEOUL – South Korea signed on Wednesday a free trade deal with Panama, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica, the 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 Minister of Economy, Tharsis Salomon Lopez; the Minister of Economic Development of Honduras, Arnaldo Castillo; and the Vice Minister of International Trade for Negotiation of the Ministry of Trade of Panama, Diana Salazar.
Kim, speaking at the signing ceremony held in Seoul and reported in a statement released by South Korea’s Trade Ministry, said the South Korea-Central America free trade deal would enable the countries to build more comprehensive, strategic partnerships.
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.
The free trade agreement, which will eliminate duties on more than 95 percent 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 FTA is expected to ease South Korea’s electronics and automobile exports to the Central American nations.
Negotiations for the deal started in June 2015, and it will now be sent to parliaments of the signatory countries for ratification.
Guatemala and South Korea are negotiating separately concerning Guatemala’s adhesion to the FTA in future.