SEJONG -- South Korea seeks to launch formal negotiations with Uzbekistan by the end of this year to sign a bilateral free trade deal, Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said Monday.
South Korea will complete domestic procedures this month to begin free trade talks with Uzbekistan, Hong told a meeting with economy-related ministers.
Hong said Uzbekistan is one of the important partners for South Korea's New Northern Policy aimed at improving the nation's partnerships with countries located north of the peninsula.
South Korea and Uzbekistan have already completed a feasibility study on the proposed free trade agreement.
In July, Hong and Sardor Umurzakov, Uzbekistan's deputy prime minister for investment and foreign economic relations, held talks in Seoul, during which they agreed to speed up preparations for a free trade deal.
Uzbekistan was the 35th-largest export destination for South Korea last year. Outbound shipments to the central Asian country reached $2.3 billion in 2019, up 10.4 percent from a year earlier.
Meanwhile, Hong said the government will step up efforts to deal with rising cases of countervailing duties against South Korean firms as trade protectionism grows around the world. (Yonhap)