S. Korea calls for digital pact with ASEAN under FTA framework

SEOUL, July 29 (Yonhap) — South Korea on Friday suggested a new agreement on digital technology and systems with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries under their free trade pact in a move to further bolster bilateral economic ties, Seoul’s trade ministry said.

The proposal was made during a virtual meeting of the two sides’ FTA implementation committee, which was meant to discuss ways to revise their free trade deal that was signed in 2006 and came into force the following year.

South Korea called for ways to work closely on new trade issues, such as supply chains and food security, as well as the revision of norms regarding goods and services trade, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

It also proposed the addition of a chapter on the digital sector to their FTA, which is expected to deepen trade ties and to better support South Korean firms’ advance into the ASEAN market, it added.

ASEAN is South Korea’s second-largest trading partner, with bilateral transactions reaching US$176.5 billion in 2021, nearly tripled from $61.8 billion tallied in 2006.

The economic bloc comprises 10 nations — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.

“It has been 16 years since the launch of the FTA. We will continue consultations to reflect changing trade circumstances to the agreement so as to make the deal useful for companies,” the ministry said in a release.

Currently, the two sides are carrying out joint research on how to improve the bilateral FTA, after the regional mega trade pact of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) took effect this year.

The RCEP has 15 members, including South Korea, China, Japan and 10 ASEAN nations. 

South Korea and ASEAN agreed to further lower trade barriers in 2016, but related talks have been delayed as they decided to focus on clinching the RCEP.

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