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Lee expects S. Korea-Colombia trade to jump five-fold under FTA

BOGOTA-- President Lee Myung-bak said he expects trade between South Korea and Colombia to jump five-fold over the next five years if the two countries implement a free trade agreement, saying the deal would create a win-win situation for both sides.

Lee made the remark in an interview with Colombia's leading El Tiempo newspaper published Sunday. Lee arrived in Bogota on Saturday for a three-day visit that made him the first South Korean president to travel to the wartime ally that fought alongside the South during the 1950-53 Korean War.

South Korea and Colombia have been in the final stages of free trade negotiations that were launched in 2009. Officials said the two sides are close to a deal, prompting speculation that they could announce the conclusion of negotiations during Lee's trip.

"An FTA between South Korea and Colombia will be a win-win opportunity for both countries," Lee said in the interview. "If an FTA is struck between the two countries, trade volume between the two countries is expected to increase five-fold over the next five years, and mutual investment in each other is also expected to increase sharply."

Colombia's economy is expected to grow at a much faster pace than before if the trade pact goes into effect because Colombian firms could take advantage of the agreement as a foothold for their expansion in Asia, Lee said.

"Expansion in trade and investment will contribute to improving the quality of life for the Colombian people and will be helpful for Colombia's economy to grow in a steady manner," Lee said.

Lee also said the trade deal will lead more South Korean firms to invest in various sectors in Colombia, and this will contribute to Colombia's economic growth and job creation. (Yonhap News)

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