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South Korea and Turkey on Monday signed a tentative agreement on goods trade,
the first part of a broader free trade pact the two countries are seeking to
finalize in the first half of the year.
South Korean Trade Minister Bark Tae-ho and Turkey's Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan signed the agreement in a ceremony attended by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan after their summit talks.
Erdogan was in Seoul to attend the Nuclear Security Summit.
"South Korea and Turkey are traditionally friendly nations," Lee said during the ceremony.
relations between the two countries have been elevated to a strategic
partnership this year and at the same time, we signed a trade pact. This will
serve as a chance to drastically strengthen economic cooperation between the two
Lee called for stronger trade ties with Turkey, one of the world's fastest-growing economies.
Erdogan said the agreement on goods trade will facilitate cooperation between companies of the two countries and that he expects to see the entire free trade deal finalized by June. He also called for boosting bilateral trade volume with South Korea, saying the current level of US$7 billion a year is too small, given the economic powers of the two countries.
He also expressed hope for greater cooperation in energy, defense, auto and shipbuilding industries as well as cooperation in science and technology.
South Korea and Turkey have held three rounds of negotiations on a free trade deal since April 2010. During a trip to Turkey last month, Lee and Erdogan agreed to conclude their free trade negotiations by the end of the first half of the year.
Officials said the envisioned free trade pact with Turkey would allow South Korean firms to export goods to other parts of Europe via Turkey at low prices as Turkey and the European Union are linked by an agreement to remove or lower tariffs between them.