Korea could ink a trade agreement with Turkey by the end of March, according to the country’s ambassador here.
“Our target date is the end of March and at the latest by the end of the first half of this year,” said Turkish Ambassador, Naci Saribas.
The trade volume between the two nations is almost $6 billion with $5.7 billion of that being South Korean goods going to Turkey.
He listed Turkish imports to Korea of textiles, clothing, agriculture, food, small machinery, chemicals, iron and steel, minerals and furniture as likely to grow through the agreement.
“When you sign a free trade agreement the volume of trade gets higher. Of course we are expecting our exports to get more and more in Korean market sectors,” he said.
The trade section of the agreement is being pushed as a priority issue to end the disadvantage Turkey has found itself at following Korea’s recent FTA with Europe.
Turkey’s customs union with Europe paired with Korea’s EU FTA means that Korean imports to Turkey via Europe are benefiting from special tariffs, but Turkey is still unable to sell goods at reduced rates here.
“We wish to conclude the agreement on trade and goods. Investment and services will come later,” Saribas said. “First we will finalize the trade and goods part. Free trade agreements are not easy, they are really difficult and complex agreements because it affects some sectors of each country and might not be very easy to convince those sectors.”
The ambassador also hopes that the countries’ recent move from “blood brothers” to “strategic partners” will help strengthen ties in many sectors.
The two countries call each other “brother countries” after Turkey sent the fourth-largest number of troops to help fight the Korean War.
But recent trips to Turkey by Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak and Foreign Affairs Minister Kim Sung-hwan upped diplomatic relations.
And Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will head Turkey’s delegation to the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit in March, with the Turkish ministers of foreign and economic affairs also attending.
Nuclear power has been a talking point for the two countries before, with negotiations for South Korea to build four nuclear reactors on Turkey’s Black Sea coast stalling in December 2010. Saribas said talks on the $20 billion project halted as South Korea did not meet Turkish expectations.
“There were some sticking points,” he said. “One was the tariff, the second was the treasury guarantee and the third was the third party liability during an accident,” he said, adding that Turkey was currently studying a new law on third party liability.
But, he said: “On tariffs and treasury guarantees our position has not changed.”
“We are ready to receive a technical delegation from Korea to discuss the details but up to now we have not received a concrete proposal.”
Energy is set to be a growth sector for the expanding Eurasian economy, with Saribas saying that nuclear power will supply 5 percent of electricity there by 2020.
“Within 15 years we are foreseeing to have an investment of $100 billion in our energy sector,” he said.
By Kirsty Taylor