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Israel, South Korea Finalize Free Trade Agreement

Israel and South Korea signed a Free Trade Agreement Wednesday, which is expected to greatly reduce the cost of cars and electronics imported from Seoul. Israeli Economy Minister Eli Cohen and visiting South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee announced the finalization of the accord at a ceremony in Jerusalem. Notably, the deal does not apply to Israeli products manufactured in the West Bank, which Cohen assured was not an issue as the Israeli government would provide “complete compensation” to businesses located in the contested territory. The commercial pact is Israel’s first-ever with an Asian nation due to a prevailing belief that such agreements with the Jewish state would harm trade with larger Arab and Muslim markets. Cohen hailed the occasion as “historic” as it would eliminate tariffs on Israeli goods imported by companies in South Korea, which is the world’s 11th largest economy. In 2018, trade between the countries totaled some $2.5 billion, an increase of nearly 15 percent over the previous year.