South Korea said Monday it plans to start its third round of free trade talks with Cambodia this week to outline details, in line with Seoul's efforts to diversify its export portfolio in Southeast Asia.
The three-day virtual meetings, with a goal to come up with a finalized draft of the deal by the end of this year, will start Tuesday, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
The two countries held their first round of negotiations in July, which was followed by another gathering from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2.
"Cambodia has been boasting an annual economic growth of more than 7 percent since 2011. With around 72 percent of the population being aged 35 and below, it is a nation with high growth potential," the ministry said in a statement.
"The FTA with Cambodia, coupled with the existing FTA with ASEAN, will establish a favorable trade environment and beef up the competitiveness of South Korean companies," the ministry added.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen proposed making preparations for the bilateral free trade pact during his summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Phnom Penh in March 2019.
The two nations launched their joint studies on the deal from January to May this year and declared they have officially kicked off the process in July.
The combined trade volume between the two countries came to a record high of $1.03 billion in 2019, up 6 percent from a year earlier. Exports reached $697 million, up 5.5 percent on-year.
Cambodia was the 58th-largest export destination for South Korea in 2019.
South Korea mostly exports cargo trucks, drinks and textiles to Cambodia while importing clothes and shoes from the Southeast Asian nation.
Seoul has been rolling out the so-called New Southern Policy, which is aimed at bolstering Seoul's strategic and economic relations with emerging Asian partners, and reducing its heavy dependence on China or the United States.
The world's two largest economies account for roughly 40 percent of South Korea's exports, making it vulnerable to an economic fallout from the escalating tension between Washington and Beijing.
When the pact is signed, Cambodia will be added to South Korea's list of separate FTA partners in Southeast Asia, which currently covers Vietnam and Singapore.
Seoul and Manila held the fifth round of official negotiations for their FTA in January. Talks with Malaysia are also in progress, and the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with Indonesia is also awaiting an official signing ceremony. (Yonhap)