South Korea and Cambodia agreed to launch a joint feasibility study on their potential free trade agreement (FTA) in a move to forge deeper economic ties and expand exchanges, Seoul's trade ministry said Monday.
The agreement came in line with the country's two-day summit with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states held in the country's southern port city of Busan, which started Monday.
"The FTA between Cambodia will become a crucial deal that helps Korean firms penetrate deeper into the Southeast Asian nation with prominent growth potential," South Korea's Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee said.
South Korea and Cambodia earlier vowed to seek efforts to lift regulations in trade during the two countries' summit in March.
Seoul and Phnom Penh will carry out the joint study on the FTA for one year, the ministry said.
South Korea's exports to Cambodia came to US$660 million in 2018, more than doubling from $294 million in 2008. Imports also shot up to $314 million from $18 million over the cited period.
South Korea mainly exported knitted textiles, trucks and beverages to Cambodia in 2018, while importing clothes and shoes.
Amid growing protectionism around the globe, South Korea has been making efforts to expand economic ties with Southeast Asian nations and ease its heavy export dependency on China and the United States, its two largest trading partners.
South Korea reached a preliminary agreement on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with Indonesia in October. The deal is equivalent to a free trade agreement but also focuses on a broader scope of economic cooperation.
Earlier this month, ASEAN member states, South Korea and five other partner countries also reached a deal on a mega Asia-Pacific trade pact, known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Other negotiations on FTAs with nations, including Malaysia and the Philippines, are also in progress for South Korea.
Cambodia is especially an attractive trading partner as the Southeast Asian country has been posting annual economic growth of around 7 percent since 2011, according to the ministry.(Yonhap)