Korea and Vietnam have agreed to start formal talks toward a free trade agreement. Trade Minister Bark Tae-ho and his Vietnamese counterpart Vu Huy Hoang made the announcement at a meeting in Hanoi on Monday.
The first talks next month will negotiate the scope of products to be affected by the FTA as well as guidelines for individual trade sectors.
Agricultural products are expected to be the main issue in negotiations, since Vietnam is the world's No. 2 rice exporter. Korea aims to boost shipments of IT products and automobiles to the Southeast Asian country.
Seoul and Hanoi have already forged a preliminary FTA, because Korea signed a trade pact with ASEAN, of which Vietnam is a member, which went into effect in 2007. But Korea's key exports -- cars, components and IT products -- are not included in the pact with ASEAN, so Seoul is seeking separate FTAs with each ASEAN member country.
Last year, Korea's trade with Vietnam amounted to US$18.6 billion, with a trade surplus of $8.4 billion.