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Mon, Apr 23, 2007 - Page 10 News List

S Korea, EU set to announce trade talks

AFP , SEOUL

South Korea and the EU are set to formally announce bilateral free trade talks this week, government sources said here yesterday.

The EU is likely to give the go-ahead today to the talks and Seoul will hold a meeting of trade-related ministers this week before giving the green light for the negotiations, they said.

"When the EU completes the approval procedures on Monday as scheduled, the opening round of talks will take place here on May 7-11," an unidentified government official told Yonhap news agency.

"During the first sitting, we will mainly discuss the timetable and methods for the talks," the official said.

South Korea will put together a delegation of some 50 people covering four areas -- commodities, investment and services, regulations and trade disputes.

Trade experts here say Seoul will find negotiations with the EU less tough than those with the US as the EU is known to be more lenient toward its partners' sensitive agricultural issues.

The benefits to South Korea from a free trade agreement would be tangible as the EU's average current tariff rate for imported goods is 4.3 percent, compared to the US rate, which hovers at just over 3 percent.

After 10 months of tough bargaining, Seoul sealed a free trade pact with Washington this month that scraps tariffs on thousands of items and will boost commerce by billions of dollars a year.

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