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Moon talks trade ties with Chile

Korea seeks to become associate member of Pacific Alliance
Apr 30,2019
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South Korean President Moon Jae-in, right, and visiting Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, inspect an honor guard during a welcoming ceremony at the Blue House in Seoul on Monday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]
President Moon Jae-in proposed a more active role for Korea in a Latin American trade bloc, the Pacific Alliance, during a summit with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera Monday.

Moon met with Pinera at the Blue House in the morning and formalized Korea’s bid to become an associate member of the Pacific Alliance, winning Pinera’s support.

“Korea and Chile are economic hubs that represent Asia and Latin America,” Moon said in a joint press session after his summit with the visiting Chilean leader. “If Korea becomes an associate member of the Pacific Alliance, a free trade agreement network linking the two regions will be established. It will be a basis for grand economic cooperation across the Pacific Ocean. I hope for active support from Chile, scheduled to serve as the rotating chair of the trade bloc in the later half of this year.”

The Pacific Alliance, launched in 2012, has four full-time members: Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, all on the Pacific Ocean. The trade bloc also has four associate members: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Singapore. The alliance’s full-time members account for 38 percent of the total gross domestic product of Latin America and 50 percent of the region’s trade.

As of 2018, there were 55 observer states recognized by the alliance, including Korea.

Following their summit, a joint statement was issued by the two countries. “President Pinera welcomed Korea’s interest to join the Pacific Alliance as an associate member,” said the joint statement, announced by the Blue House. “Both presidents agreed to work together for the early start of negotiations between Korea and the Pacific Alliance”

Among the four full-time members of the Pacific Alliance, Korea has signed free trade agreements with all countries except Mexico. Associate membership of the alliance could restart free trade negotiation with Mexico, stalled since 2008.

A 15-year trade partnership between Korea and Chile was also celebrated by the two leaders.

Chile was the first free trade agreement partner of Korea. Their bilateral trade volume quadrupled to $6.28 billion last year from $1.57 billion in 2003.

At the joint press conference, Pinera also said the time has come to upgrade the free trade agreement.

“Both presidents highlighted the current negotiations for the conclusion of an upgrade of the free trade agreement, which will deepen integration in bilateral trade and investments. The two leaders concurred that this agreement, in force since 2004, has been crucial in the growth of trade between both countries,” the joint statement said.

The two leaders discussed a range of issues. Moon asked for more Korean companies’ participation in major infrastructure projects in Chile, particularly transportation and information communication.

The two leaders agreed to develop bilateral cooperation in four priority areas - e-government, the fourth industrial revolution, cybersecurity and climate change - and encouraged authorities in both governments to identify specific areas of collaboration.

After the summit, the two countries signed a treaty for defense cooperation and three memoranda of understanding to expand cooperation in information technology, transportation and a digital governance system.

According to the joint statement, Pinera recognized Moon’s efforts to achieve denuclearization and establish a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. “Both presidents agreed that dialogue is an essential part of the process for the establishment of peace, socioeconomic development, security, and well-being of all parties concerned as well as the region,” it said.

Moon expressed his best wishes to Chile as host of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings later this year, and Pinera invited Moon to attend the upcoming APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, which will take place in Santiago, Chile, on Nov. 16 and 17.

Moon also welcomed Chile’s hosting of the 25th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December.

Pinera is the first Latin American leader to visit Korea since Moon took office. He had a two-day state visit starting Sunday. He visited Korea in March 2012 to attend a nuclear summit in Seoul.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]