VietNamNet Bridge – The second round of negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) between Vietnam and South Korea will begin in this quarter and is likely to produce positive results.
That is the forecast of Vo Thanh Ha, deputy director of the Asia Pacific Market Department under the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Speaking at a seminar on the Vietnam-South Korea FTA talks held in Can Tho last Friday, Ha said two-way trade between the nations had sharply risen from US$500 million in 1992 to US$21.1 billion last year.
South Korean is currently the fourth largest trade partner of Vietnam, while Vietnam is the sixth biggest export market of South Korea.
South Korea ranks third in terms of FDI in Vietnam, after Japan and Taiwan, with over 3,100 projects worth nearly US$25 billion. Vietnam is the largest ODA recipient of South Korea and has some 60,000 people currently there for guest work.
Le Van Dao, adviser to the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association, said South Korea was the fourth largest buyer of Vietnamese apparels last year, with a total import value of US$1.3 billion, up 11.5% from 2011. There are now more than 200 South Korea-invested textile and garment firms in Vietnam, employing around 180,000 Vietnamese workers.
South Korea offers the same incentives as the EU for apparel products made of fabrics of any origin, said Dao. “The FTA with South Korea will make it favorable for South Korea to further invest in textile, dyeing and fashion as these are its strengths,” he predicted.
Kim Sang Guk, director of CJ Vietnam, said his firm last year exported US$30 million worth of agro-aqua products and US$20 million of textile-garments to South Korea. He added that CJ had acquired a major stake in the MegaStar cinema chain in HCMC and would build a MegaStar cinema in Can Tho.
“The two countries are major export markets of each other. We are the largest agro-aqua product supplier in South Korea. We hope that three years after the FTA signing, we will grow 10 times against today,” Kim emphasized.
The Mekong Delta enterprises attending the seminar last Friday asked the Trade Ministry to help them make preparations for export to South Korea after the FTA is signed.
Nguyen Van Ngung, deputy director of the Trade Department of Soc Trang Province, said the province last year exported more than US$400 million worth of seafood and rice, but only a few shrimp items were exported to South Korea. “The Trade Ministry should boost negotiations over removal of South Korea’s technical barriers so that agro-aqua products of the delta can effectively enter South Korea through FTA,” he proposed.
Meanwhile, as the center of the Mekong Delta, Can Tho last year only exported US$43 million of seafood and garments to South Korea. On hearing that CJ will build a seafood processing plant in Vietnam, Nguyen Minh Toai, director of the Can Tho City Trade Department, said: “We will cooperate with CJ Group by joining hands with other Mekong Delta provinces to develop a material zone to serve CJ’s processing and export.
On January 22, managers and representatives of 50 South Korean firms will visit Can Tho to pass the project of ‘South Korean Technology Incubator’ in the city, he added.
The project will apply high technology of South Korea to produce export products meeting global standards. It will be worth more than VND400 billion, 70% of which will be financed by the South Korean party, he said.