Illustrative image (Source: Bilaterals.org) 
 
Seoul (VNA) – The Republic of Korea (RoK) has launched negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) with Malaysia in an effort to diversify its export portfolio and expand its presence in Southeast Asia.

RoK Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee held a video conference with Malaysian Minister of International Trade and Industry Darell Leiking on June 27 and the two had agreed to seek a free trade deal with the goal of completing negotiations in time for a summit between ASEAN and the RoK this November.

The first round of negotiations will be held in Kuala Lumpur on July 11.

The move came after leaders of the RoK and Malaysia held a summit in March and agreed to launch negotiations toward a bilateral FTA and push for their conclusion before the year's end.

Since the RoK clinched an FTA with ASEAN in 2007, Seoul has been making efforts to sign separate free trade deals with individual members of the regional bloc.

Malaysia is now the fourth largest trade partner of the RoK in ASEAN with a two-way trade of 19.2 billion USD last year.

Earlier, the RoK signed bilateral FTAs with Vietnam and Singapore, and is in the process of talks with Indonesia and the Philippines.

If successful, Seoul will sign FTAs with all its five leading trade partners in ASEAN.-VNA