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S. Korea, MERCOSUR hold preliminary talks on FTA
According to Yonhap News, 

(SEOUL=Yonhap News) South Korea and the South American trade bloc MERCOSUR had preliminary talks on launching official negotiations on a trade deal, as Asia's fourth-largest economy is seeking to tap deeper into the populous region, the trade ministry here said Tuesday.

At the two-day exploratory dialogue held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Monday (local time), representatives of South Korea and four members of MERCOSUR, which means the Southern Common Market in Spanish and consists of the countries of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, will discuss the basic directions and structural elements of the future trade agreement, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. Venezuela is the fifth member of MERCOSUR but will not participate in the trade deal.

If the two sides reach an agreement at the dialogue, they will declare the launch of official negotiations on the trade deal.

"An agreement with MERCOSUR will help our companies have a competitive edge in the market," the trade ministry said in a release. "Along with the latest free trade agreement with Central American countries, South Korea will likely establish a trade network in the American continent."

MERCOSUR has a total population of some 286 million people and its economic size is estimated at US$2.78 trillion, accounting for 45 percent and 52 percent of the South American continent's population and gross domestic product, respectively.

Two-way trade volume reached $12.3 billion in 2015, with South Korea exporting goods worth $7.4 billion to the economic bloc.

South Korea has been widely focusing on expanding FTAs with many economies for years since 2003 when it first signed an FTA with Chile.

It now has FTAs with world economic powerhouses such as the European Union, the United States and China, while it signed the FTA with six Central American countries last week.

Officials from South Korea and six Central American countries celebrate the signing of the free trade agreement in Managua, Nicaragua, on Nov. 16, 2016 (local time). (Courtesy of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy)

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Source: Yonhap News (Nov. 21, 2016)

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