|President Park Geun-hye looks at a cornerstone etched with the handwriting of her late father former President Park Chung-hee showcased at the new South Korean Embassy building in Indonesia on Friday. (Yonhap News)|
JAKARTA ― President Park Geun-hye on Friday called for an early conclusion of a comprehensive economic partnership agreement with Indonesia, stressing the need for an institutional framework to buttress the two countries’ pursuit of co-prosperity.
Speaking at a Korea-Indonesia business investment forum here, Park also said the two countries should deepen and widen the scope of their trade across all sectors for the shared goal of increasing trade volume to $100 billion by 2020.
“The CEPA between the two countries will create a new win-win partnership that would greatly contribute to a rise in two-way trade and enhance cooperation in a variety of areas, which will, in turn, spur mutual economic growth,” she told a gathering of about 250 government officials and business leaders from both countries.
“The Korean government will work closely together with the Indonesian government to conclude the CEPA as soon as possible in a way that serves the interests of both nations.”
The CEPA is similar to a free trade agreement and puts much emphasis on bilateral economic cooperation on top of market opening. Seoul already has the FTA with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, but has sought to ink the CEPA with Indonesia to increase the level of trade liberalization.
Among the participants in the forum were Indonesia’s Coordinating Economic Minister Hatta Rajasa, Industry Minister Mohamad Hidayat, Trade Minister Gita Irawan and South Korea’s business leaders.
On the day, she began her business-focused schedule in Indonesia, the last leg of her eight-day trip focusing on cementing strategic partnerships with Southeast Asian countries.
Park arrived in Jakarta on Thursday night for a three-day state visit after attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bali and several forums with 10 Southeast Asian nations and other regional partners in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei.
Indonesia is the destination for Park’s fourth overseas trip after the U.S., China and Vietnam. With a population of some 237 million, the resource-rich country is the largest economy in the ASEAN region, and seen as having great growth potential ― a reason why regional powers have been pursuing deeper ties with it.
Since July 2012, South Korea has been in negotiations over the CEPA with Indonesia, through which it wants to export to the country more cars, and environmental and petrochemical products.
During the talks, Jakarta has focused more on bolstering investment and industrial cooperation with Seoul through the CEPA, given that the deal could benefit Seoul more in terms of trade than Jakarta whose mainstay exports are mineral resources.
Since the two countries established diplomatic relations four decades ago, their trade volume has increased 150 times to $30 billion last year from $200 million in 1973. Annual people-to-people exchanges also rose during the period to 450,000 last year from 3,000.
Based on their evolving economic ties, the two countries aim to increase trade volume to $50 billion by 2015 and $100 billion by 2020. In 2006, they established a strategic partnership to expand the scope and depth of their relationship.
On the occasion of Park’s state visit here, Seoul and Jakarta signed seven agreements on cooperation on issues including technology sharing in energy and natural resources; power plant construction; joint exploration and development of resources; and establishing energy-related infrastructure.
One of them was a memorandum of understanding between Korea Gas Corporation and Indonesia’s mining and energy firm SUGICO over joint research over “coalbed methane,” a form of natural gas extracted from coal beds.
South Korea’s Hanjin D&B also signed an agreement with SUGICO to sell equipment to excavate coalbed methane ― worth $5 million. Another deal was signed between Korea Gas Corporation and Indonesia’s MIGAS over establishing a gas safety management system.
Korea South East Power Co. signed an MOU with Indonesia’s Teluk Bintuni over joint efforts to produce wood pellets in the Southeast Asian country and sell them.
Later in the day, Park toured an engineering center of Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. in the Indonesian capital to observe bilateral defense industry cooperation.
At the center established last year, 140 young Indonesian engineers receive training and education on the designing and production of maritime equipment.
In November 2011, DSME signed a $1.08 billion deal to export three submarines to Indonesia. Under the agreement, one of the submarines is to be built in Indonesia as part of efforts to offer technological training to Indonesian engineers.
The two countries have seen a growth in their defense industry cooperation in recent years. In May 2011, Korea Aerospace Industries, the country’s sole aircraft maker, signed a $400 million contract with Indonesia to sell 16 T-50s.
During Park’s sales diplomacy, she was accompanied by a 71-member business delegation including Park Yong-man, the chairman of the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun, Lotte Group chairman Shin Dong-bin, and Samsung Electronics vice chairman Kang Ho-moon.
By Song Sang-ho, Korea Herald correspondent