S. Korea would pursuing a free trade agreement with Russia: Deputy PM

South Korean Deputy Prime Minister Hong Nam-ki speaks during the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, Sept. 5. (provided by the Ministry of Economy and Finance). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

SEOUL, Sep 9, 2019, Hankyoreh. Hong Nam-ki, South Korea’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance, said during a visit to Russia for the Eastern Economic Forum that Seoul would pursuing a free trade agreement (FTA) with Moscow in the area of goods, reported the Hankyoreh.

According to accounts from the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MOEF) on Sept. 6, Hong held a dinner talk with around 100 representatives of businesses and locally operating [South Korean] businesspeople during the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok the evening before. During the encounter, Hong said that South Korea would be “concluding the service/investment FTA negotiations initiated with Russia this June as quickly as possible and holding active discussions with the Russian government so that an FTA in goods can be swiftly pursued.”

“An FTA in goods with Russia would have very deep significance not only in terms of lowering tariff rates but also expanding trade, including expedited customs procedures,” he was quoted as explaining.

Hong also said support would be provided for South Korean companies to create business opportunities in Russia. Announcing plans to expand economic cooperation with Russia into four leading Fourth Industrial Revolution areas including aerospace, nanotechnology, and healthcare, he pledged to seek out common ground for generating synergy effects between Russian basic and source technology and South Korean commercialization technology.

During the dinner, businesspeople discussed issues including Russian airport operation fees, difficulties with the issuance of refund guarantees, and the need for financial support to small businesses. In response, Hong promised to “gather the different opinions that businesspeople are sharing and work actively to bring them up with Russia at the South Korea-Russia joint economic committee meeting on Sept. 24 and produce results.”

Hong previously met with Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua while attending the 5th Eastern Economic Forum plenary session with the leaders of various countries in Northeast Asia. In a bilateral meeting of economic ministers, the two agreed on working to achieve progress in cooperation between the two sides. Hong also met separately with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Trutnev and proposed the pursuit an FTA, the establishment of a Northeast Asian consultative group for developers (actors in charge of financial, construction, and other development projects), and the formation of a joint investment fund for materials, components, and equipment.

Hong additionally enjoyed had a pleasant conversation with North Korean Deputy Prime Minister Ri Yong-nam. In a Facebook message, Hong wrote, “I didn’t think it was right to come all the way to Vladivostok and just sit there with a fellow Korean 20m away, so I went over and said hello.”

“We had a casual exchange of greetings. It was a short encounter, but it left a lasting impression,” he continued.

By Lee Kyung-mi

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