South Korean President Park Geun-hye was to hold a summit with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Saturday that is expected to center on buttressing the fast-expanding economic cooperation between the two countries with a free trade deal.
South Korea and Indonesia launched negotiations to forge a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA) last year and have since conducted five rounds of talks. A CEPA is the equivalent of a free trade pact designed to tear down or lower barriers to trade.
On Friday, Park called for an early conclusion of the negotiations.
|President Park Geun-hye speaks at a business forum held in Jakarta on Friday. (Yonhap News)|
"We need a firm institutional framework if South Korea and Indonesia are to achieve the goal of expanding trade volume to $100 billion by 2020," Park said during a meeting with business leaders. "A comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA) currently under negotiation will be an important institutional foundation."
Relations between South Korea and Indonesia have made big strides in recent years, with their trade volume doubling to nearly $30 billion last year from just $14.9 billion in 2007. This year marks the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Indonesia is also the biggest Southeast Asian buyer for South Korea's defense industry. In 2011, the country awarded two massive contracts to South Korea, one of which was to purchase submarines and the other to purchase T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer jets.
Park arrived in Jakarta on Thursday in the last leg of a weeklong trip that took her to Indonesia's resort island of Bali for a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and then to Brunei for a series of regional summits led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The latest overseas trip is part of Park's "sales diplomacy" campaign aimed at bolstering South Korea's economic and business interests. Last month, she made a similar business-oriented visit to Vietnam where she agreed to conclude bilateral free trade talks with the Southeast Asian country next year and cooperate on its nuclear power development.
On Friday, South Korea and Indonesia also signed seven agreements on energy and resources cooperation, including a memorandum of understanding between the Korea Gas Corporation and Indonesia's mining and energy firm SUGICO on joint research into "coalbed methane" development.
Other topics include Park's peace visions for the Korean Peninsula and the region.
After Saturday's summit, the two sides plan to issue a joint statement laying out the vision for future relations between the two countries, officials said. Park and Yudhoyono also plan to attend a signing ceremony for four defense and economic agreements, and hold a joint news conference.
The two leaders also plan to plant a tree to commemorate the 40 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries, the first such event by a foreign leader visiting Indonesia, which officials said shows the importance Jakarta attaches to its relations with Seoul.