Australia seals free trade agreement with South Korea

SYDNEY - The Australian government on Thursday announced it has secured a free trade agreement with South Korea after four years of negotiations.

South Korea is Australia's third-largest export market and Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the deal would see tariffs of up to 300 per cent gradually eliminated on key Australian agricultural exports such as beef, wheat, sugar and dairy.

Tariffs will also go on resources, energy and manufactured goods. "As a result of the agreement, tariffs will be eliminated on Australia's major exports to Korea and there will be significant new market openings in services and investment," Abbott said.

"The FTA translates to higher economic growth and more jobs for Australians."

Bilateral trade between Australia and Korea reached Aus$32 billion (S$36.3 billion) in 2012 and Abbott said "this agreement will help take that to a new level".

Abbott's conservative government has made concluding free trade deals with South Korea, Japan and China a centrepiece of its international diplomatic efforts.

Talks continue with Tokyo and Beijing on those agreements. Australia has several bilateral FTA pacts, including with Singapore, Thailand and the United States.