By Lee Kyoung Mi and Lee Jihae
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the world's largest free trade agreement, was ratified on Nov. 4 in Bangkok, Thailand, during the RCEP's third summit.
An agreement among Korea, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, India and the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the RCEP was ratified by all of the aforementioned nations except India.
President Moon Jae-in said, "The ratification of this agreement has led to the beginning of the world's largest free trade agreement. I hope that we build one economic cooperation zone where we respect each other's varying levels of economic development, culture and diverse systems."
"Trade barriers will be lowered and the depth of exchanges and cooperation deepened."
The president added, "I hope we jointly overcome the global economic downturn and the value of free trade spreads further."
Leaders of the nations taking part in the summit emphasized the importance of the RCEP in the face of threats to the global economy such as protectionism, as the accord is based on free and liberal standards. They agreed to quickly settle negotiations on matters such as market opening and finalize the relevant accords by next year.
The heads of state also expressed intent to cooperate with India on relevant issues. New Delhi opted not to ratify the agreement citing its chronic trade deficit.
By Jung Joori and Lee Hana
Korea last year saw exports reach a record-high USD 600 billion, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced on Jan. 1.
Exports in 2018 reached USD 605.5 billion, up 5.5 percent from the previous year's USD 573.7 billion. Import volume also surged 11.8 percent during the same period from USD 478.5 billion to USD 535 billion.
Overall trade volume surpassed USD 1 trillion while the trade surplus amounted to USD 70.5 billion, marking the tenth consecutive year that Korea exported more than it imported.
Trade Minister Sung Yun-mo said, "These results are thanks to the determination and hard work of our businesses even in the face of many challenges. This year, we will continue to take action against trade disputes involving the U.S. and China while expanding our economic and political reach in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). We promise to exceed USD 600 billion again in 2019 for the second consecutive year."
Overseas shipments of semiconductors, general machinery and petrochemicals played a key role in last year’s record-breaking growth. The export figure for memory chips hit USD 126.7 billion and that of petrochemicals USD 50.1 billion, both record highs for the respective industries, while general machinery saw USD 53.6 billion.
China, Korea's biggest market, saw a 14.2-percent surge in Korean exports from USD 142.1 billion to USD 162.2 billion over the period.
Korean exports to the U.S. rose six percent to USD 72.7 billion and those to ASEAN member countries grew 5.3 percent to USD 100.3 billion. Vietnam, one of ASEAN’s largest markets, saw Korean exports increase 1.8 percent to USD 4.86 billion to secure the No. 3 spot on Korea's export list after China and the U.S.
By Kim Eun-young and Lee Hana
Korea has signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with five Central American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. Korea is now the first East Asian country to sign a joint FTA with these five economies.
Minister for Trade Kim Hyun-chong met with his Central American counterparts at a signing ceremony at the Lotte Hotel in Seoul on Feb. 21. The countries signed the deal two years and eight months since negotiations began, back in June 2015.
The FTA outlines agreements on commodities, investments and intellectual property. Following the agreement, Korea and the five Central American countries will eliminate tariffs on 95 percent of goods traded between them, in some cases effective immediately and others in phases.
With the new agreement, Korea will now be able to import Central American coffee and mangoes at lower costs. Central Americans will have cheaper access to Korean automobiles and steel.
The Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP) predicts that the Korea-Central America FTA will help to increase Korean GDP by 0.02 percent, improve civilian welfare by USD 690 million, and create over 2,500 jobs over the next 10 years.
The Korean government has begun the formal legal process to put the FTA into effect in the first half of 2018.