SEOUL, July 6 (Yonhap) — South Korea and Uzbekistan on Monday vowed to speed up preparations for a possible free trade agreement (FTA), which will pave the way for deeper economic ties and exchanges.
Industry Minister Sung Yun-mo met Sardor Umurzakov, Uzbekistan’s deputy prime minister for investment and foreign economic relations, in Seoul to discuss ways to overcome the economic fallout from the new coronavirus pandemic, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy.
South Korea and Uzbekistan have already completed a feasibility study on the joint FTA.
“South Korea is currently preparing to come up with a new model of FTA that will promote sustainable cooperation in the fields of trade and investment,” Sung said during the meeting.
“(The FTA) will contribute to the economic development of Uzbekistan while helping South Korean firms penetrate deeper into the country,” he added.
The two countries also agreed to make efforts to expand economic ties in various areas.
In line with the meeting, SK Engineering & Construction Co. inked a front end engineering design (FEED) agreement with Uzbekistan’s state-run oil and gas company, Uzbekneftegaz, to modernize an oil refinery.
South Korea has been making efforts to clinch FTAs with more partners as relations of the world’s two largest economies have soured recently over trade and the COVID-19 pandemic. China and the U.S. accounted for nearly 40 percent of South Korea’s combined exports in 2019.
The country’s exports fell 10.9 percent in June marking the fourth consecutive month of decline amid the fallout from the new coronavirus pandemic, although the pace slowed as major economies around the globe slowly began to resume business activities.