South Korea and the European Union (EU) agreed to delay their scheduled round of free trade negotiations by two to three weeks, Seoul's top trade official said on Wednesday.
Last month, both sides said they would hold an eighth round of negotiations in Seoul in the first week of March predicting that it may be the last before an agreement is reached.
"The EU asked us to delay the negotiations by two to three weeks," Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon said in a meeting with businessmen here.
"Although the talks was delayed, the two sides still want to finalize the deal during next month's meeting.
" Seoul and Brussels reported 'significant' progress in their negotiations for a free trade accord during a minister-level meeting in Seoul last month.
Since signing a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States in 2007, South Korea has held seven rounds of negotiations with the EU in a bid to gain greater footing in the 27-nation economic bloc, South Korea's second-largest trading partner after China.
Bilateral trade came to 93.
07 billion dollars in 2007 and some unofficial studies suggest an FTA would boost that figure by as much as 40 percent in the long run.
The EU is also the largest foreign investor in South Korea, with outstanding investment reaching 43.
40 billion dollars at the end of 2007.
South Korea is seeking to sign FTAs with as many countries as possible in an effort to strengthen its export-oriented economy.
Currently, South Korea has FTAs with Chile, Singapore and the European Free Trade Association, as well as a partial pact with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Seoul is also seeking similar trade deals with Canada, India and Mexico.