Israel and South Korea announced the opening of negotiations for the establishment of a free trade zone between the two countries. Korea's Deputy Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy, Mr. Tae Hee Woo, met on Tuesday with the Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry, Mr. Amit Lang, and discussed ways to increase the amount of trade and investments between the two countries. The visit took place following accelerated preparations between the two sides and feasibility studies regarding the agreement and trade relations between the countries.
The two noted in their meeting that the Israeli and Korean economies complemented one another and that there was great potential for promoting cooperation in a number of fields, including hi-tech, innovative technologies, agriculture, industrial R&D, and others. In light of this, both sides believe that a free trade zone deal will be serve as a good basis for increasing economic cooperation. Following internal processes necessary for approving the launch of negotiations, the first meeting will take place in around one month's time in the South Korean capital of Seoul, with both sides expressing hope that the process will progress quickly.
Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry, Amit Lang said: "A free trade zone agreement between Israel and South Korea will constitute a significant milestone in the two countries' trade relations and represents significant economic potential for both as well as significance for the economic relations between Israel and East Asian countries in general." The opening of negotiations comes following extensive efforts by the Foreign Trade Administration at the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry in cooperation with the Israeli Embassy in Seoul, headed by Ambassador Uri Gutman.
Both sides noted in their meeting on Tuesday the importance of establishing as wide and extensive an agreement as possible, including the removal of most custom tariffs and the prevention and removal of non-customs trade obstacles, in accordance with the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Negotiations on the deal will be conducted by the Foreign Trade Administration at the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry along with other government ministries and will cover, among other issues, trading in goods, trading in services, investments and economic cooperation.
Ohad Cohen, Head of the Foreign Trade Administration at the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry, said: "South Korea is an important trade partner for Israel in Asia, with trade reaching $1.7 billion in 2015. Israeli exports to Korea continue to grow and reached $578 million in 2015 and we see great potential in this market. With the signing of the free trade zone agreement between Israel and Korea, we expect these numbers to continue to grow, for the benefit of both sides."