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Latin America base for Korea to access U.S.

Korean construction and telecommunications companies have been growing business opportunities in Latin America to use the region as a strategic base to access the U.S. market, said the head of Inter-American Development Bank.

“Logistics, and cost of transportation will come to play an important role as energy prices turn up again and as Korea expands trade with the U.S. under the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement,” IDB chief Luis Moreno told The Korea Herald on Thursday.

The FTA between Korea and the U.S. was ratified by the U.S. Congress last week, but it awaits Korea’s legislative approval. 
Luis Moreno. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
Luis Moreno. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)

“As cost of transportation goes higher, it makes more sense to be closer to your market (the U.S.) than here. And given the fact that Korean companies are increasingly establishing themselves in either Mexico or Brazil, it’s a good bet,” he said.

In Seoul for a networking forum for Korean and Latin American companies, the U.S. born chief of the world’s biggest regional development bank emphasized that infrastructure needs in America also pose a long-term business opportunity for Korean builders.

Referring to Asia and Latin America as “two growth engines” of the world, he said Latin America has more room to grow for the gap it has in public infrastructure.

“As Mexico, Chile, and Brazil make more investments in public projects to accelerate trade, it will not only grow our economies faster but will also accelerate inter-regional trades,” he said.

Bilateral trade between Latin American countries and Korea has been expanding at a whopping 16.1 percent annually for the past few years, but Korea’s still represents a tiny 2.5 percent of Latin America’s total trade.

Representing the regional financier of state projects in Latin America, Moreno said heads of states in Latin America, Central America, Spain and Portugal will meet to gather the region’s voices ahead of the Group of 20 Cannes summit in November.

“They will carry a message to the G20 which is that countries want to see some assured message from Europe that it has a path forward to solve their debt problems,” Moreno said.

When asked whether he is interested in becoming President of Colombia, he denied such an aspiration, saying “I cannot imagine myself as the President.”

Moreno is attributed to have dramatically improved Colombia’s relationship with the U.S. while acting as the Latin American country’s Ambassador to the U.S. for seven years until 2005.

By Cynthia J. Kim (cynthiak@heraldcorp.com)
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