Korea, Columbia to launch FTA during Lee's state visit
By Kim Se-jeong
President Lee Myung-bak and Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos are likely to announce the launch of a bilateral free trade agreement this weekend when they meet in Bogota, Colombian Ambassador Jaime Cabal to Korea said Thursday.
The ambassador said the technical stages of the negotiations were completed last weekend, and now the two parties are working to finalize legal details before any formal announcement is made.
“We hope everything is going to be ready for the visit of President Lee to get a joint declaration with our President Santos,” Cabal told The Korea Times. The first round of negotiations began in December, 2009.
Lee will spend three days in Bogota between June 23 and 25, making him the first South Korean president to visit the country.
Official diplomatic ties between the two countries were established in 1962. But a strong bond was first established during the Korean War (1950-53) during which Colombia sent soldiers to support South Korea.
Colombian President Santos made a state visit to Korea last year.
Ambassador Cabal said the Colombian side is attracted by the possibility of selling more agricultural goods to Korea. For example, an 8-percent tariff currently on coffee beans entering Korea will be lifted. Colombian meat and dairy products, not sold in Korea will also be given advantages to compete in the market here. Correspondingly, the agreement will grant Korean automobiles and electronics the opportunity to compete with Japanese wares.
If realized, Korea will be the first Asian country with which Colombia has agreed a free trade agreement.
“One reason is political. We feel very close to Korea because of the war. We have a special relationship, so Colombia decided Korea should be the first country,” the ambassador said.
Colombia is conducting a feasibility study for a possible FTA with Japan, but he said that Bogota is skeptical about a future agreement with China. Colombia already has FTAs with the United States and the European Union.