Vol. 5 Num 295 Sat. March 26, 2005  

ROK to sign FTA with Singapore

South Korea will sign a free trade pact with Singapore next month that will cut tariffs on growing trade between the rival Asian manufacturers of high-end electronics, the finance ministry said Friday.

It will be the second such deal for South Korea following one sealed in April last year with Chile, despite protests then by farmers and labour unions who feared it would ruin their livelihoods.

A deal with Singapore, however, has not been as controversial as the city-state has only a tiny agricultural sector.

South Korea has said it hoped the deal would help speed up free trade talks with Japan, along with the Association of South East Asian Nations (AEAN) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) that groups Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and tiny Liechtenstein.

Trade-reliant Singapore, the first Southeast Asian nation to sign a free-trade pact with the United States, has led its neighbours in tearing down trade barriers.

Bilateral trade between Singapore and South Korea has doubled in a decade to $11.6 billion in 2003, but the pact only covers a fraction of this, removing barriers on 75 percent of Singapore's $1.8 billion of "domestic exports."

These are goods manufactured purely in Singapore, rather than "re-exports" which form the bulk of trade and include items shipped from one country, such as India, to Singapore's port before being "trans-shipped" to another region such as South Korea.