February 7, 2006

South Korea and the US are to begin negotiations over a possible Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Industry observers claim that such a move will help boost South Korean drug exports to the US, which remain relatively small, while increased foreign investment will help the domestic industry to develop in the long term.

However, any deal would most likely involve the implementation of intellectual property accords stronger than current WTO-TRIPS standards. As such, the local generics industry is likely to look upon any deal with trepidation. In 2005, the generics market in South Korea was worth US$4.3bn, although the majority of output contravenes WTO rules. South Korea is a current signatory to TRIPS, but the illegal copying of drugs is commonplace, with the authorities often unwilling or slow to implement any sanctions against companies that break the law.

In recent times South Korea has sought to sign FTAs with a number of countries in order to bolster its export-driven economy, recently agreeing to a bilateral trade accord with Singapore. Meanwhile, it is currently in FTA talks with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Canada and Japan.