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South Korea and Vietnam declared the launch of talks on a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) Monday as part of efforts to strengthen economic ties, Seoul's trade ministry said.
In a meeting held in Hanoi earlier in the day, South Korean Trade Minister Bark Tae-ho and his Vietnamese counterpart Vu Huy Hoang agreed to launch their free trade talks, the ministry said.
South Korea already has a free trade pact on merchandise with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that took effect in 2010. Similar deals on services and investments also have come into effect.
Vietnam is a member of ASEAN, but South Korea and Vietnam have been seeking to seal their bilateral free trade pact.
South Korea and Vietnam finalized a joint study on the feasibility of an FTA between the countries in October last year.
Vietnam is a fast-emerging country whose economy is growing at an annual rate of 5-8 percent on average. Vietnam was South Korea's 15th-largest trading partner last year, according to the ministry.
South Korea's exports to Vietnam stood at US$13.55 billion last year, up 40 percent from a year earlier, and imports also surged 53 percent to reach $5.08 billion over the cited period, the ministry said.
Seoul's finance ministry said earlier it will keep working to strengthen cooperative ties with Vietnam as both nations have mutual supplementary economic structures.