President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy (C), South Korean President Lee Myung-bak (L) and the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso attend the EU-Republic of Korea Summit in Brussels, capital of Belgium, Oct. 6, 2010. EU and South Korea signed a free trade agreement Wednesday at the EU-Republic of Korea Summit. (Xinhua/Thierry Monasse)
SEOUL, Oct. 6 (Xinhua) -- South Korea and the European Union ( EU) sealed a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), based on which the two sides will enjoy stronger economic ties as strategic partners, South Korea's presidential office said Wednesday.
In a ceremony held in Brussels on the sidelines of the Asia- Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and EU President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso signed the pact which was initialed a year ago in Brussels, the presidential office said.
The presidential office praised the deal, saying it will allow South Korea with a preemptive access to the European market, highlighting its expected economic effect.
"The signing of the FTA between South Korea and the EU will bring forth not only an economic alliance but a relationship based on values," presidential spokeswoman Kim Hee-jung said in a briefing.
SUMMARY OF S. KOREA-EU FTA
The South Korea-EU FTA marks the first free trade pact the EU has settled with an East Asian country, while the EU, whose GDP takes up 30 percent of the world's total amount, has become the largest free trade partner of South Korea.
Under the deal, the two sides are to eliminate or phase out tariffs on 99.6 percent of industrial and agricultural products from the counterpart country, the presidential office said in a report.
While tariffs on 81.7 percent of South Korean goods and 94.0 percent of EU products will be abolished right after the deal takes effect, 5.5 percent of South Korean products and 2.9 percent of EU goods will have to wait three additional years, the report showed.
Within five years, 93.6 percent of South Korea's and 99.6 percent of EU's will be shipped to the counterpart market without any tariffs, according to the report.
In particular, tariffs on cars will be eliminated within three years to five years, benefiting auto industries of both countries.
While most agricultural items are included in the deal, rice and related items, which South Koreans find most sensitive, is excluded from tariff exemption.
Also, with respect to the service sector, South Korea is to open 115 industries, while Europe will allow South Koreans to move into 139 industries, the report added.