South Korea’s trade ministry said Tuesday it has agreed with Uruguay to make joint efforts to speed up negotiations for a free trade pact with a group of South American countries.

Trade Minister Yeo Han-koo plans to meet his Uruguayan counterpart, Francisco Bustillo, virtually later in the day to discuss ways to expand economic ties, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

“Uruguay is one of the key partners for South Korea, as the two can make joint efforts to overcome challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Yeo said in a statement, pointing out the trade deal with Mercosur will further enhance the bilateral economic cooperation.

Mercosur, made up of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, accounts for around 70 percent of the population in South America and 68 percent of the region’s economy.

South Korea and Mercosur held their seventh round of negotiations earlier this month.

“The trade agreement between South Korea and Mercosur will pave the way for the two parties to expand cooperation in a wide array of areas, including digital, technology, infrastructure, ICT, health care and carbon neutrality,” Yeo added.

South Korea has been making efforts to expand its economic ties with partners from Central and South America to diversify its export portfolio.

The ministry said the previous day that it is currently under negotiations with Guatemala to invite the Central American country to a multilateral trade pact that fully went into effect this year.

South Korea and five Central American nations — Costa Rica, El Salvador, Panama, Honduras and Nicaragua — fully implemented their FTA in March.

Seoul also holds separate trade agreements with Chile, Peru and Colombia. (Yonhap)