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ROK, Japan Agree to Start FTA Talks


ROK, Japan Agree to Start FTA Talks

BANGKOK - President Roh Moo-hyun and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi agreed on Monday to start negotiations toward signing of a free trade agreement (FTA), during a summit meeting on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting here.

Seoul officials said the two nations aim to sign the free trade pact by the end of 2005.

They expressed hope that a FTA with Japan will provide long-term economic benefits, despite possible negative effects on some industries and a widening trade deficit with Japan from a short-term perspective.

¡°But, in the long-run, the FTA will benefit both nations as it will promote intra-industry trade and expand trade and investment relations between the neighboring nations,¡± said a Cheong Wa Dae official who is accompanying Roh.

Japan, for its part, has been worrying about a possible influx of Korean agricultural products prompted by a FTA, given the fact that it covers all sectors including farming.

South Korea¡¯s automotive machinery and electronics industries, in particular, are expected to be vulnerable under a FTA as Seoul has been imposing tariffs of about 8 percent on such imports, whereas Japan levies no tariffs on them.

The two nations also reached an agreement on a number of social security-related issues.

Under the pact signed by the foreign ministries, workers who stay in each other¡¯s country for more than five years will be exempt from paying national pension premiums.

In the summit meeting, Roh called on Japan to extend visa waivers to all Korean citizens and Koizumi said Japan will positively consider the matter taking all factors into account.

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