SEOUL – South Korea and Canada concluded a free trade agreement Tuesday, wrapping up a negotiating process that began nine years ago and focused on barriers in the auto and agriculture sectors.
The South’s trade ministry said the FTA will be signed as early as June after legal reviews by both sides.
Talks between the two countries began in 2005 but suffered a five-year hiatus as Canada took South Korean restrictions on beef imports to a World Trade Organization panel in 2009.
The trade ministry said South Korea’s auto industry would be the greatest beneficiary of the deal, which is the first FTA Canada has signed with an Asian country.
Canada is the world’s fifth-largest market for South Korean cars. Last year South Korea shipped $2.23 billion worth of vehicles to Canada and imported $92 million worth of Canadian cars and parts.
South Korea agreed to completely remove its 8.0 percent import tariff on Canadian cars and parts after the FTA takes effect.
Canada will reduce 6.1 percent tariffs on South Korean cars and parts to 4 percent within 24 months.
Canada will also remove most of its import tariffs on clothing and textile products, which now stand at a maximum of 18 percent, within two years.
The two countries will completely remove tariffs on 97.5 percent of products within 10 years from the day of implementation.
However, 19 percent of farm products including rice, cheese and dry milk will be either exempt from the deal or receive a grace period of more than 10 years, higher than the deals South Korea has already forged with the United States and the European Union.
South Korea regards rice and beef as the most sensitive items.