imageISLAMABAD: Pakistan and South Korea are striving to launch a free trade agreement (FTA) following an ongoing feasibility study hoping to capitalize on each other's geo-strategic leverage, Pakistan's envoy to Korea said.

In an interview with The Korea Herald, Pakistani Ambassador Zahid Nasrullah Khan highlighted the policy of prioritizing trade and investment with Korea since Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif took office in 2013.

The feasibility study being conducted jointly by the Pakistan Institute of Trade and Development and the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy since July 2015, is expected to be completed by June, which will be followed by early rounds of negotiations, he said.

The envoy said following agreements with China, Malaysia and Sri Lanka, Islamabad aimed to strike a deal with Seoul, which would be the first of its kind with a member economy of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

“As the Korean economy is undergoing structural changes with low-value- added industries outsourced overseas, Korean companies could base their operations in Pakistan in this segment of manufacturing," Khan said. “Pakistan has comparative advantages in textiles, cotton and leather goods over other competing countries."

Seoul has recently scaled up contributions to the economic development cooperation fund from $180 to $500 million, under which the Korea Eximbank has agreed to establish an information and communications technology park in Islamabad. A government-to-government project with anticipated investments by Korean firms, the scheme is worth over a million dollars.

According to the ambassador, the project's spirit is to emulate the success of ICT parks in Korea.

The ninth bilateral policy consultation session was also held in Islamabad with the participation of Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam. “They discussed upgrading the policy consultation to a strategic level," he said.

The two countries also signed a memorandum of understanding for the Pakistan-Korea Joint Trade Commission in July last year, during the visit of Pakistan's Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan to Seoul.

Copyright APP (Associated Press of Pakistan), 2016