SEOUL, Oct. 28 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s free trade agreement (FTA) partners have played a key role in helping the country maintain its trade surplus and volume this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, government data showed Wednesday.

Asia’s fourth-largest economy registered a trade surplus of US$40.4 billion with its FTA partners in the January-September period, according to the data from the Korea Customs Service.

In contrast, South Korea posted a $12.8 billion trade deficit with non-FTA partners, resulting in an overall surplus of $27.6 billion.

Over the nine-month period, South Korea’s trade volume with FTA partners declined 5.3 percent on-year, much lower than a 16.8 percent tumble in trade with non-FTA partners.

Hit by the coronavirus outbreak, South Korea’s overall exports and imports fell 8.6 percent and 9.1 percent from a year earlier, respectively.

South Korea chalked up a trade surplus of $23.5 billion with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) during the period, despite a 10.3 percent plunge in exports.

South Korea’s trade deficit with the European Union amounted to $5.7 billion as imports from the area increased 2.8 percent despite a 7.7 percent decline in exports.

The customs agency said South Korea’s overall imports from the EU climbed as more medicine, vaccines, luxury goods and cars were brought in.