The Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy of South Korea announced on March 12 that the country’s Free Trade Agreement with Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panama was provisionally signed in San Jose, Costa Rica on March 10 (local time).
According to the agreement, import tariffs on at least 95% of items are to be eliminated immediately or in stages by each of the Latin American countries. The items include automobiles, steel, synthetic resins, cosmetics, fibers, pharmaceutical products and auto parts. In response, South Korea removes tariffs on approximately 95% of items such as coffee, raw sugar, tropical fruits like banana and pineapple, steel, automobiles, auto parts and lighting equipment.
When it comes to service and investment, negative listing is to be adopted so that the service markets of the Latin American countries can be opened to a large extent and South Korean product distributors, builders and entertainment companies can have a better market access. In the communications sector, fair competition and non-discrimination are to be systemically ensured with regard to telecom and related services.
In addition, the government procurement markets of those that have yet to accede to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are scheduled to be opened so that South Korean companies can enter the sectors including energy, infrastructure and construction, which have been led by Brazilian and Spanish companies. Build-operate-transfer (BOT) projects in Costa Rica and Panama are to be opened to South Korean builders, too.
Furthermore, various measures are prepared for the protection of intellectual property rights in the Latin American countries. The measures are expected to contribute to the spread of the Hallyu (Korean Wave) by preventing illegal distribution of South Korean films, music, etc.