This paper begins with a detailed analysis of the factors that led Koreas more open approach to FTAs, culminating in the officially stated intention of exploring a bilateral FTA with Chile. Korea and Chile have concluded preliminary talks and working-level negotiations are expected to begin in 1999. Looking beyond the FTA with Chile, Korea has stated that it is pondering establishing FTAs with Thailand, South Africa, and Turkey. The choice of these countries is part of Koreas strategy to establish an FTA with a country in each continent in order to increase market access around the world. However, this paper takes the position that if Korea seeks for future free trade partners after the establishment of a Korea-Chile FTA, Korea needs to look to a new regional trading bloc with APEC. Through extending preferential bilateral FTAs to other APEC economies, Koreas FTA may not only accelerate the trade and investment liberalization of APEC, but also help Korea play a leading role in APEC in the future.
This paper the proceeds to support a view that Koreas next move needs to be the consideration of bilateral FTAs with Australia, New Zealand and Canada or a multilateral FTA encompassing all four countries. While trade with all of these countries would be highly complementary for both sides, the most compelling reason for such a FTA would be its potential for spreading free trade throughout the Asia Pacific region. Along with Chile, Australia, New Zealand and Canada are all APEC members. Such a free trade area would demonstrate the benefits of free trade to regional economies and possibly exert the pressure needed to restart the currently stalled free trade talks of APEC. Such progression would move Korea to the forefront of international trade talks.