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Korea and Turkey signed their free trade deal on Wednesday, paving the way for South Korean firms to tap deeper into the Eurasian nation, Seoul's trade ministry said.
Seoul Trade Minister Bark Tae-ho and Turkish counterpart Zafer Caglayan signed the pact on merchandise in the Turkish capital of Ankara earlier in the day, according to the ministry.
"The Korea-Turkey FTA is expected to serve as a good stepping stone which will institutionally link the two countries' economies and trade," Bark said in a speech given for a signing ceremony. "Trade volume between the both countries will potentially grow to $10 billion in two-to-three years and hopefully up to $20 billion (in the future)."
The Seoul minister said he will push to pass the FTA bill through the National Assembly in order to put the FTA deal in operation starting at the beginning of next year.
The two countries will hold further talks this year to conclude a similar pact on service and investment, the ministry said.
Since March 2010, the two countries have held four rounds of free trade agreement negotiations.
In March this year, Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed in principle to conclude their free trade negotiations in the first half of the year.
Last year, Korea exported goods worth $5.1 billion to Turkey and imported goods worth $800 million. In 2010, their bilateral trade reached $4.27 billion.
"The government will work to take follow-up measures for a parliamentary ratification as soon as possible," the ministry said in a statement.
According to the ministry, Turkey with a population of 73.7 million grew 7.8 percent last year following a 9-percent expansion a year earlier.
Turkey has geographical advantages, in respect to the location of the country at the middle of Europe, Middle East, and even Central Asia, which will provide an array of business opportunities for Korean firms, according to the ministry.
With the addition of Turkey, Korea has free trade agreements with 46 countries, including Chile and Singapore, as well as India.
A similar free trade pact with the United States went into effect in March this year. Korea and the European Union (EU) also implemented their free trade deal in July last year.
The country is actively seeking similar pacts with Canada and Colombia, among several other countries.