S. Korea, UAE strike bilateral free trade agreement

SEOUL, Oct. 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) struck a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) Saturday, which is expected to enhance bilateral trade and overall economic relations, Seoul's industry ministry said.

South Korea's Trade Minister Ahn Duk-geun and the UAE's foreign trade minister, Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, signed the joint statement on the conclusion of negotiations for the bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in Seoul, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

It is South Korea's 24th FTA and the first free trade deal with a Middle Eastern nation.

The CEPA is a type of FTA, which emphasizes a broader scope of economic cooperation and exchanges on top of market opening.

The two countries plan to officially sign the agreement in the first half of next year following legal review and necessary domestic procedures, the ministry said.

"The countries have concluded the negotiations, reaching a significant milestone in light of the strategic bilateral relationship," the joint statement read.

"The CEPA will serve as a catalyst for the enhancement and promotion of economic relations, while also increasing and diversifying bilateral trade," it said.

Under the deal, South Korea will remove tariffs on 92.8 percent of all items traded, and the UAE will lift tariffs on 91.2 percent of all products within up to 10 years.

South Korea is expected to enjoy growth particularly in exports of eco-friendly vehicles, weaponry and electronics, as well as fresh food items.

The UAE will also remove a 3 percent tariff on crude oil over the next 10 years, which will help boost South Korean refiners' price competitiveness and ensure stable supplies.

"In the service sector, the UAE decided to open its online gaming, medical service and other industries in which South Korea is highly interested. The agreement is expected to further promote K-content in the Middle East," a ministry official said.

"The UAE is South Korea's key partner country in the Middle East under 'the special strategic partnership.' The CEPA is expected to further boost bilateral ties in a future-oriented manner and beef up cooperation in such fields as energy and advanced industries," he added.

Two-way trade came to around US$19.5 billion in 2022, and the UAE is South Korea's 16th major trading partner, government data showed.

Source: Yonhap News Agency