South Korea aims to increase its market share in the European Union (EU) to 3 percent within three years by taking advantage of a bilateral free trade pact that took effect last week, Seoul's trade minister said Monday.
In a radio interview, Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon said increasing market share from 2.6 percent at present is possible since the free trade agreement (FTA) gives local businesses an edge over rivals in other countries.
"It could take up to three years for rival countries vying for the EU market to have an FTA in place, which allows South Korean companies a head start to grab the market," Kim said.
The accord, which took effect on Friday, is the most ambitious trade deal that South Korea has ever finalized, and is the first of its kind between an East Asian country and the EU. Seoul has said that the FTA could help two-way trade with the 27-member economic bloc go up as much as 20 percent in the long run.
Kim said that as of July 1, 76.6 percent of all tariffs levied by the EU on South Korean products in the past have been abolished, which could exert positive influence on trade.
Under the open trade deal, Seoul and Brussels said they will eliminate or phase out tariffs on 96 percent of EU goods and 99 percent of South Korean goods within three years after the accord takes effect, and duties on most industrial goods will be abolished within five years.
Kim, in addition, said that while there is some concern of EU-made cars making inroads into the local market, such a development could be offset by a rise in locally made car exports.
"The local market for new cars stands at around 1.2 million cars per year, compared to 14 million for the EU," he pointed out.
The trade minister, meanwhile, stressed the government is not planning to give up its livestock industry, which critics of the EU FTA said would be hit hard once tariffs come down.
"Seoul plans to provide fiscal support and offer tax benefits to help local livestock farmers overcome the expected influx of cheap meat imports from the EU," he said.