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KORUS FTA to Boost Food Product Imports
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South Korean retailers plan to import more food products once the free trade pact with the United States goes into effect this month, a poll by a private economic organization showed Monday.

According to the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) survey on 250 local retailers, 29.1 percent of the respondents said they are interested in importing more processed foods, followed by 27.9 percent that wanted to bring in various fresh farm produces.

"Many companies are eying cheese, pork, oranges and other food products as items they can import because they are cheaper than those produced in the country," the KCCI said.

It added that 54 percent of the companies said they expect the free trade agreement (FTA) will lower import prices, compared to 31.2 percent that expected no change.

The free trade accord, known as the KORUS FTA, was signed in 2007 and will go into effect on March 15. It will lower tariffs across the board for most products that can fuel two-way trade between South Korea and the United States that topped US$100.7 billion in 2011, up from $90.2 billion in the previous year.

The latest report also showed that 18.6 percent of domestic retailers said they wanted to import more miscellaneous products, with cosmetics, medicine, liquor and clothing being items they wanted to purchase for sale in the country.

The findings, in addition, showed that 24.4 percent of the retailers said they will lower prices on par with tariff cuts, but 75.6 responded that cuts may be limited to reflect greater marketing costs and other retail-related outlays.

The report showed that 59.8 percent of retailers expected full impact of the KORUS FTA to be felt a year after it is implemented, with 23.6 percent forecasting immediate change.

Local retailers, meanwhile, called on the government to provide more detailed FTA customs rules, overseas market conditions and training to better utilize the open trade arrangement with the world's largest economy.

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Source: Yonhap News (Mar. 5, 2012)

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