Trade Minister Simon Crean announced at the weekend that Australia and Korea had this week concluded preparatory talks on a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA).
“The conclusion of preparatory talks prepares the way for the start of actual FTA negotiations,” said Mr Crean.
“The next step will be for each government to complete its domestic consultations.”
The two countries agreed to the preparatory talks during a visit to Korea by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in August when Mr Rudd met with President Lee Myung-bak.
Mr Crean said the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had recently called for public submissions on the expected economic, regional, social, cultural, regulatory and environmental impacts of an FTA with Korea.
“Submissions from the public will be important in assisting the Government to assess the likely outcomes from an FTA with Australia’s fourth-largest export market, and our sixth-largest overall trading partner.
"I encourage interested stakeholders to contribute.”
Mr Crean underlined the Government’s commitment to protecting and enhancing commercial opportunities for Australian business overseas.
“The Government is well aware of the challenges being faced by Australian business around the globe in these difficult, economic times, and so we are focused on improving that situation wherever we can.
"Pursuing high-quality, WTO-consistent FTAs is one such way we can play our part in supporting growth, jobs and livelihoods in Australia.”
Australia’s goods and services exports to Korea were worth $15.3bn in 2007.
Total two-way trade was $21.8bn in 2007.
In addition to strong and growing merchandise trade links, tourism and education exports to Korea have increased strongly in recent years, and investment links are expanding.
Passenger motor vehicles and telecommunications equipment are Australia’s largest import items from Korea.
• More details on the public submission process can be found on the DFAT website: www.dfat.gov.au/geo/rok/fta/index .html. Individuals or organisations intending to make a submission are encouraged to do so by January 30.