Vietnam, S.Korea conclude talks for free trade deal

By Truong Son, Thanh Nien News

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Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (L, standing) and South Korean President Park Geun-hye (R, standing) witness the signing of an agreement marking the end of negotiations for the Vietnam-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in Busan on Dec 10. Photo credit: Vietnam News Agency

Vietnam and South Korea on Wednesday wrapped up negotiations for a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that seeks to triple bilateral trade turnover to US$70 billion by 2020. 
The two sides concluded the deal during a meeting between Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and South Korean President Park Geun-hye on the sidelines of the ASEAN-Korea Commemorative Summit in Busan. 
The two leaders hailed the conclusion of the FTA negotiations as an important event in bilateral trade ties.
The FTA will boost bilateral trade cooperation as it seeks to triple two-way trade turnover to $70 billion by 2020, and also bring the strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries to new height, they said. 
Vietnam and South Korea officially began FTA talks in August 2012 and have held nine rounds of negotiations since. 
The leaders agreed to maintain regular high-level visits and contact, to expand coordination between ministries and agencies as well as to implement new dialogue mechanisms in the fields of diplomacy, national defense and security. 
Defense industry, training, trans-national crime prevention and anti-terrorism are at the top of the list for improved dialogues. 
They agreed that the maintenance of peace, stability, security, maritime and aviation safety in the East Sea --  the Vietnamese term for the South China Sea -- is a common interest for countries in and outside the region. 
They also jointly suggested that ASEAN and China abide by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and move towards an early finalization of the code of conduct aimed at easing tensions.
According to South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, Vietnam is South Korea's ninth-largest trading partner with about $21.09 billion worth of products shipped to the Southeast Asian country in 2013. It is also the world's fourth-largest destination for South Korean investment, attracting some $1.46 billion from South Korea last year. 
The Korea Times reported that the two sides agreed on all of the FTA's 17 chapters, including products, services, investment and intellectual property, but rice, a sensitive product for Korean farmers, was excluded from the deal. 
South Korea and Vietnam will remove import tariffs on more than 90 percent of all products once the FTA is implemented, according to the report.

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