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S. Korea to expand FTAs with more emerging countries in S.E. Asia, Latin America

South Korea said Tuesday it plans to implement or launch negotiations for a set of new free trade agreements (FTAs) with trading counterparts from Southeast Asia and Latin America this year, as part of efforts to reduce its reliance on major economies.

The country plans to officially sign the pending FTA with Cambodia in October, seven months after completing related negotiations, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

The ministry said the deal is set to help South Korean firms diversify their assembly lines in the Southeast Asian regions beyond China and Vietnam.

Cambodia is South Korea's 60th-largest export destination.

Major exports include beverages, textiles and cargo trucks. South Korea mostly imports clothes and shoes from the Southeast Asian nation.

South Korea is also awaiting the implementation of a free trade deal with Indonesia, which is pending at the Indonesian assembly for approval. Seoul completed its domestic procedures in June.

The ministry added it wishes to produce significant results from the ongoing negotiations with the Philippines as well.

Other major pending deals with Asian partners include the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is expected to be ratified in October before being fully implemented as early as January 2022.

The mega trade pact, which accounts for one-third of the world's gross domestic product, was inked in November last year, with participants covering ASEAN, South Korea, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

South Korea has been making efforts to diversify its trading partners portfolio by joining forces with emerging nations. Forty percent of the country's exports currently depend on China and the United States.

South Korea currently has pending negotiations with the Pacific Alliance, a regional trade bloc comprising four countries: Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico. Seoul currently wishes to become an associate member, which will grant free trade access to other members.

Separate negotiations are under way with Mercosur, made up of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. The bloc accounts for around 70 percent of the population in South America and 68 percent of the region's economy. South Korea and Mercosur launched their first negotiations in 2018. (Yonhap)