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S. Korea, EU to hold ministerial meeting over free trade deal

All Headlines 13:55 March 14, 2010

SEOUL, March 14 (Yonhap) -- Trade ministers from South Korea and the European Union (EU) will meet in Brussels on Monday to assess the progress of the final steps toward a bilateral free trade agreement, the Seoul's trade ministry said Sunday.

After a meeting with EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht, South Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon will also meet other high-ranking EU officials, according to the ministry.

Last week, South Korea said it is seeking to formally clinch a free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU by the end of April.

After two years of negotiations, South Korea and the EU initialed the trade accord in October last year. The pact still needs to be approved by South Korea's National Assembly and the heads of the EU's 27-member states to take effect.

If approved, the FTA with South Korea would be the EU's first free trade deal in Asia. The EU was South Korea's second-biggest trading partner after China and its largest foreign investor in 2008.

That year, two-way trade between South Korea and the EU stood at US$98.4 billion. A study by the South Korean government predicted the deal would eventually boost bilateral trade by 20 percent.

For years, South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest economy, has actively pushed to seal free trade deals with its trading partners, including the United States. The deal with the U.S. is awaiting approval from both nations' legislatures.

sam@yna.co.kr
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