South Korea will soon announce the start of negotiations for free trade agreements (FTAs) with Ecuador and other Central American countries as part of a plan to expand its presence in the region, the government said Wednesday.
"The government has completed all domestic procedures for the start of FTA negotiations with Ecuador and a group of six Central American countries, and will seek to launch such negotiations at an appropriate time," the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a press release.
The six countries are Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama that, together with Belize, make up the entire Central America, according to South Korea's (Yonhap) News Agency.
The move to launch FTA talks with the countries comes as part of the country's new FTA strategy that mainly targets new developing countries.
So far, Seoul has signed 15 FTAs involving 52 countries, while 11 of them have already been implemented.
The trade ministry said the country has a bilateral or multilateral free trade pact with all but three of the 34 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The three countries are Japan, Mexico and Israel.
South Korea is moving to join a regional FTA, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which involves Japan, Mexico and 10 other countries, including the U.S.
Under the new FTA strategy, to be submitted to an economy-related ministers' meeting Friday, the government will work to improve its existing free trade deals.
"The government will continue to work to maximize the benefits of existing FTAs by improving or revising FTAs with low utilization rates, such as those with India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations," the ministry said.