In what is being described as a first of its kind, Israel is set to sign a free trade deal with South Korea that excludes settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory and Syrian Golan Heights.
According to Ynet, the free trade deal is not only the first such deal to be signed between Israel and a “major Asian state”, but it is also “the first time Israeli government has agreed to sign a free trade deal, the benefits of which wouldn’t extend to the Jewish state’s disputed [i.e. occupied] territories”.
Reports say that the multi-billion-dollar deal will exclude Israeli settlements in occupied territory – all of which have been condemned as illegal under international law – from custom fees exemptions.
The Ynet article says that the deal – “which has been in negotiations for years” – is expected to be signed next week, during an official visit to Israel by South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee.
“The deal with Seoul includes a provision where the goods originating from the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Golan Heights would not be exempt from customs fees,” added Ynet.
Excluding settlements is seen as a price worth paying, since officials “believe the deal with South Korea has an immense strategic importance” as the “first free trade agreement signed with a major Asian country and is expected to pave the way for similar deals with other states in the region”.
According to Ynet, “the financial benefits of the agreement are estimated to be in the billions of dollars,” and it is also “expected to significantly contribute to reducing the cost of living for the Israeli public by lowering the price of exports.”