South Korea's exports (Yonhap)
South Korea will hold the fourth round of free trade talks with Cambodia this week as part of efforts to diversify its export portfolio in Southeast Asia, the trade ministry said Tuesday.
The three-day virtual meetings, slated to start Wednesday, will focus on general rules, origin of country, customs clearance, market access and other issues.
The two sides have held three rounds of negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) this year with a goal to finalize a draft by year-end. Their first round of negotiations took place in July, followed by the second gathering from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2 and the third meeting in early October.
"A free trade deal with Cambodia would provide South Korean companies with a wider access to the rapidly growing Southeast Asian market," a ministry official said.
Cambodia has posted an annual economic growth rate of more than 7 percent since 2011 and boasts high growth potential since around 72 percent of the population are aged 35 and below, according to the ministry.
South Korea and Cambodia launched their joint studies on an FTA from January to May this year, officially declaring the start of the FTA negotiations in July.
Bilateral trade came to a record high of $1.03 billion in 2019, up 6 percent from a year earlier. Exports rose 5.5 percent on-year to $697 million, making Cambodia the 58th-largest export destination for South Korea.
Seoul has been keen on bolstering strategic and economic relations with emerging Asian partners in an effort to cut its heavy dependence on China and the United States.
South Korea already has an FTA with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to which Cambodia belongs, but the country has been seeking separate deals with each member to customize the pact.
Seoul on Sunday signed the so-called Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with 10 ASEAN members, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand as part of its efforts to further expand its exports. (Yonhap)