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S. Korean finance minister vows stepped up efforts to sign new FTAs

All Headlines 18:57 March 14, 2016

SEOUL, March 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's top financial official vowed an all-out effort Monday to sign new free trade agreements (FTAs) to help expand the country's exports.

Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho said the new free trade pacts will include a bilateral FTA with Israel.

"The government will actively seek to sign new FTAs, such as a Korea-Israel FTA, and closely review the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement to help maximize the benefits the country can enjoy," he said.

South Korea has yet to announce its official participation in the recently signed TPP, but has repeatedly said it may consider doing so.

Yoo's remarks came as the country's exports remain weak. South Korea's exports dropped for 14 straight months since the start of last year, tumbling 12.2 percent on-year in February alone.

"The government will continue to expand overseas markets for the country's exports by actively taking part in negotiations for a three-way FTA between South Korea, China and Japan, as well as negotiations for a multilateral FTA known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership," he said, according to the Ministry of Strategy and Finance.

Yoo, who is double-hatted as vice prime minister for economy, also pledged additional efforts to boost shipments to China, the world's single largest importer of South Korean products.

"The Korea-China FTA went into effect late last year, but various non-tariff barriers such as excessive quarantine and safety regulations continue to keep our key export items, such as food and cosmetics, from the Chinese market," he was quoted as saying while meeting with a group of exporters at a local firm in Gongju, South Chungcheong Province.

"The government will work to quickly come up with measures to help remove China's non-tariff barriers," he added.

bdk@yna.co.kr
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