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Trade volume with FTA partners doubles

Korea’s trade volume with free trade pact signatories almost doubled last year but the trade balance showed mixed reactions by regions, a report showed Monday.

According to the Korea Customs Service, the nation achieved $136.8 billion last year in the total trade volume with Chile, ASEAN, Singapore and the European Free Trade Association ― a 1.73-fold increase from $79 billion from the year before free trade pacts were signed.

Korea currently has trade pacts in effect with six partners, including the latest and largest one with the European Union, which became effective on Friday.

Trade volume with Chile, the nation’s first FTA partner in 2004, recorded a 4.5-fold increase, the largest increase across regions, from $1.6 billion in 2003 to $7.2 billion in 2010.

The volume of trade with EFTA more than tripled to $9.2 billion won in 2010 from $2.9 billion in 2005 after the free trade pact took effect in 2006.

The pacts with Singapore and ASEAN also saw growth last year, with the trading volume reaching $23.1 billion and $61.8 billion, respectively.

The report said, however, the trade balance has been mixed across regions over the years.

The trade surplus with ASEAN jumped four-fold from $2.3 billion in 2006 to $9.1 billion last year. The surplus with Singapore also grew from $2.1 billion in 2005 to $7.4 billion last year.

This year is also sending a positive signal as the trade surplus with the two countries has seen a remarkable growth as of May compared to the same period last year.

Meanwhile, the trade deficit with EFTA continued to increase, reaching $2.2 billion last year. The growing imports of goods with higher tariff rates such as shipbuilding parts, medicines and machinery are considered one of the key factors.

The situation with Chile was similar, with the trade deficit more than doubling from $540 million in 2003 to $1.27 billion last year. Led by the imports of raw materials and agricultural products, the Chilean trade deficit has already surpassed the $1.3 billion of last year.

“Considering that ASEAN, which was the nation’s fifth-largest trading partner before the free trade agreement, has become the second-largest after China, the effect of FTA seems essential for the expansion of trading volume,” said an official of the customs agency.

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)
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