SEJONG, April 24 (Yonhap) — South Korea posted a trade surplus of US$16.4 billion with its free trade agreement (FTA) partners in the first quarter of the year, while posting a deficit with non-FTA partners, data showed Friday.

Exports to FTA partners came to $96.3 billion and imports totaled $79.9 billion in the January-March period, with the trade volume inching down 0.1 percent on-year, according to the data compiled by the Korea Customs Service.

South Korea registered the largest trade surplus of $10.5 billion with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

In contrast, Asia’s fourth-largest economy suffered a trade deficit of $7.6 billion with non-FTA partners during the three-month period.

The office said South Korea’s overall trade volume shrank 1.2 percent on-year to $252.9 billion in the first quarter due to the coronavirus pandemic.’

South Korea currently has FTAs with 13 countries or regional blocs, including the United States, the European Union (EU) and ASEAN.

According to the data, 75.2 percent of South Korea’s overseas shipments benefited from FTAs, up 0.5 percentage point from a year earlier. The comparable figure was 72.7 percent for imports, up 0.4 percentage point.

More than 96 percent of South Korean exports to Canada basked in the bilateral FTA, followed by the EU with 86.9 percent and the United States with 85.1 percent, according to the data.

Around 99 percent of imports from Chile received preferential treatment under the bilateral trade pact, trailed by New Zealand with 94.5 percent and Vietnam with 84.4 percent.

South Korea has been ramping up efforts to diversify its trade markets in an effort to ease its heavy dependence on the U.S. and China, which account for nearly 40 percent of its exports.