SEOUL, March 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and Vietnam have initialed their free trade agreement (FTA) that aims to boost bilateral trade by removing tariffs and other barriers, the government said Sunday.
Following Saturday's initialing in Seoul, South Korea will seek to formally sign the deal within the first half of this year and obtain parliamentary approval as soon as possible before implementing it by year-end, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said.
In December, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung announced the effective conclusion of bilateral FTA negotiations.
While an English-language version of the agreement will be open to the public Monday, it will also be translated into the two parties' native languages before it is officially signed.
The ministry said the latest FTA will likely help small and medium enterprises to ship more textiles, auto parts, cosmetics and electronics goods to the Vietnamese market.
The ministry added that the deal would allow South Korean firms to compete better with their Japanese competitors in the Vietnamese market. A free trade pact between Japan and Vietnam went into effect in 2009.
According to the ministry, the free trade deal between South Korean and Vietnam excludes rice, a key staple food for Koreans.
Tariffs on tropical fruits, garlic, ginger, and pork will be abolished in 10 years, while those on honey and sweet-potato starch will be lifted in 15 years.
Vietnam is South Korea's ninth-largest trading partner, with US$21.09 billion worth of products shipped to the Southeast Asian country in 2013.
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