Lawyers in both South Korea and Colombia could be significant beneficiaries of a just-ratified free-trade agreement between the two nations.  As the Korea Herald detailed today: “Over the next 10 years, the two sides will knock down tariffs on over 96 percent of goods and roughly 98 percent of imports by volume.”

“According to the [Korean International Trade Association] KITA, the two countries have complementary trade structures — with Colombia producing raw materials and Korea making industrial goods — that can be harmonized for bilateral commerce and export to third markets. With a population of 48 million – the third-largest in Central and Latin America after Brazil and Mexico – Colombia is a growing country with a young, well-educated and rising middle class”, the report detailed.

And as the Korea Times reported, “Korea’s exports to Columbia totaled $1.1 Billion last year, while imports marked $800 million.”  Korea is currently the world’s 11th largest economy, while Colombia is the world’s 31st largest.

Colombian Ambassador to Korea Tito Saul Pinilla told the Korea Herald that “the likely beneficiaries from the deal would be agriculture (where key goods are coffee, flour, tropical fruits and vegetables, cocoa, beef, pork and dairy products), textiles and leather goods, cosmetics, mining, minerals (particularly coal, gold, silver, emerald, copper and platinum) and oil.”

The Colombian Embassy to Korea noted that: “For joint ventures, promising sectors are automobile and auto parts manufacturing, machinery and electronics, home appliances, textiles, fishery, forestry, marine transport, energy and minerals, pharmaceuticals, information communications technology and tourism.”

Colombia is also an excellent base-location for Korean firms seeking access to Latin America, the Ambassador noted.  Writing in London’s Telegraph last yearSzu Ping Chan detailed that: “In the Americas, Colombia’s reputation as a gateway to the South and launch pad to the North is becoming cemented…”

What can law firms in Korea and Colombia do to win new work from the new free-trade agreement?

Law firms in both Korea and Colombia are well placed to win new work associated with the increased trade and investment that will result from this agreement.  In particular, firms in Colombia would be wise to position themselves as gateways into Colombia and Latin America for Korean firms.  And Korean firms should also seek to be a conduit to local companies seeking a base in Colombia for expanded activities nationally and regionally.

Firms must, however, utilize sophisticated marketing and business development practices in order to properly identify, pursue and capture new clients resulting from this new trade and investment.

Posted by John Grimley

John Grimley edits and publishes Asia Law Portal. He provides content marketing and social media services to international law firms and legal services sector organizations. He's the author of: A Comprehensive Guide to the Asia-Pacific Legal Markets, and can be reached at; Twitter: @johngrimley

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