UK signs deal with ROK to protect post-Brexit trade

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Protesters gather outside the Houses of Parliament, in front of a statue of Winston Churchill, in London, Britain, Jan. 15. 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

The United Kingdom (UK) signed a continuity Free Trade Agreement with its major trade partner the Republic of Korea (ROK) on Thursday to ensure businesses keep trading freely in the event of a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31, in a fresh effort to protect post-Brexit trade.

The deal, signed by Secretary of State for International Trade (DIT) Liz Truss and ROK Minister of Trade Yoo Myung-Hee in London, replicates, as far as possible, the effects of the EU-Korea trade deal, allowing businesses to continue to benefit from preferential terms, the DIT said.

The deal will come into effect immediately in the event of a no-deal Brexit as trade agreements that the UK is part of as an EU member state will no longer apply. The UK has signed 13 trade continuity agreements with 38 countries and regions so far, including Chile, Israel, Switzerland, and the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) trade bloc.

The ROK is the first Asian trade partner the UK has secured a similar post-Brexit deal with bilateral trade stood at 14.6 billion pounds (16.2 billion U.S. dollars) in 2018.

"My priority is to make sure that British businesses are fully prepared for Brexit and ready to trade on Thursday 31 October. That's why I'm delighted to sign this trade deal today with one of the biggest markets covered by existing EU trade agreements," Truss said.

"It will allow businesses like Bentley and Denby to keep trading as they do today, and they will be able to take advantage of the opportunities that Brexit offers," she added.

In 2017, there were 6,900 British businesses exporting goods to South Korea, worth around 5.8 billion pounds. Some of the fastest growing British exports include the sale of British cars, which increased to 943 million pounds in 2018, up by a third on the year before. Exports of ceramic products and professional services have also seen rise in recent years.

The trade agreement was welcomed by businesses in industries such as automotive, technology, renewable energy, retail and ceramics.

"As the first luxury car brand to enter the market in 2006 Bentley Motors sees South Korea as very significant to our future business plans. The stability this FTA brings is very much welcomed and will enable us to continue to promote the very best of British automotive engineering and craftsmanship as we grow our business in South Korea," Warren Clarke, Bentley Brand Manager South Korea said.

Yoo Myung-Hee said the signing of the FTA will "remove much Brexit uncertainty" out of the bilateral economic partnership, and that in this challenging time, the agreement sends a signal to the world of their strong, collective support for free, open, rules-based trade.

Despite applause for the deal, businesses doubt whether the government can successfully roll over much of the around 40 EU trade deals by Brexit day. If not, UK trade with these countries will be subject to WTO terms. Progress of trade deals with other major markets for the UK including Canada, Turkey and Japan are closely watched.

According to the DIT, more than 20 continuity agreements are still under discussion, including Canada, Mexico and Egypt.

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