Free Trade Agreement (Yonhap)
South Korea's trade ministry vowed Tuesday to make more progress in expanding trade pacts with counterparts from Central and South America this year, in line with its efforts to diversify its export portfolio amid the growing protectionism around the globe.
"It is important that we set a trade strategy for the Central and South American regions amid the growing uncertainties led by the launch of a new US administration and the rising protectionism," the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a statement.
South Korea said it is seeking to make more notable progress in the pending trade talks with countries from the region throughout this year.
In February 2020, South Korea held the fifth round of free trade talks with the South American trade block Mercosur, which covers Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Venezuela's membership has been suspended since 2016 for failing to meet the group's standards.
The bloc accounts for a whopping 70 percent of the population of South America and for 76 percent of the region's gross domestic product.
Seoul is in talks with Chile to further develop their bilateral FTA, which went into effect in 2004. The South American nation was the first FTA partner of Asia's No. 4 economy.
South Korea is also pushing to become an associate member of the Pacific Alliance, an economic bloc consisting of Peru, Chile, Colombia and Mexico. If successful, the deal would become Seoul's first free trade pact signed with Mexico.
The country's exports to Central and South America, meanwhile, came to $19.5 billion in 2020, down 25 percent from $26.3 billion a year earlier, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Yonhap)