South Korea on Friday ratified a free trade deal with India that promises to slash tariffs on goods and services between two of Asia’s biggest economies.

The agreement was passed in a vote by lawmakers in the National Assembly, said two officials in the body’s secretariat. They refused to give their names, saying they were not authorized to speak to the media.

An official vote tally was to be released later in the day, they said. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that the bill passed by a margin of 192-0, with five abstentions in the 298-seat assembly.

The two countries signed the deal, known officially as a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, in August in Seoul.

Trade between India and South Korea - Asia’s third- and fourth-largest economies, respectively - has grown steadily and reached $15.6 billion last year. In 2002, it amounted to just $2.6 billion.

The two countries will abolish or cut tariffs for 90 percent of Indian goods in terms of value and 85 percent of South Korean products, according to South Korea.

At the time the deal was signed in August, South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said India had completed all necessary procedures for the agreement to take effect once South Korea approved it.

An economic affairs official at the Indian Embassy in Seoul could not immediately be reached for comment.

South Korea has been aggressively pursuing free trade agreements as part of a national strategy to boost its economy and increase opportunities for its companies, including heavyweight exporters like electronics maker Samsung and automaker Hyundai.

The country has concluded accords with the United States and the European Union, though both remain unratified.

In effect are agreements with Chile, the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the European Free Trade Association, which comprises Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.


India, EU put FTA on fast track November 6, 2009

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