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Korea, Britain agree to double trade, investment by 2020

President Park Geun-hye holds a summit with Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain on Wednesday. (Yonhap News)
President Park Geun-hye holds a summit with Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain on Wednesday. (Yonhap News)

President Park Geun-hye of South Korea and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain held summit talks on Wednesday and agreed on extensive financial cooperation among state-run and private institutions, along with broader exchanges in science and energy.

Park and Cameron agreed to try to double their countries’ bilateral trade and investment volume by 2020 and to regularly hold the government-level Joint Economic and Trade Committee as well as a private-level global CEO forum that were held on the occasion of Park’s visit.

The two leaders agreed to set the base to expand advancements to each other’s financial markets, while providing joint support for companies’ advancements into third countries.

"The ROK and U.K. share an ambition to double the volume of bilateral trade by 2020 and double bilateral foreign direct investment stock by 2020," the two sides said in a joint statement issued after the summit. "The ROK and U.K. agreed to expand their partnership in the research and development of nuclear energy."

Trade and investment volumes between South Korea and Britain amounted to $11.26 billion and $22.8 billion last year, respectively.

“By fortifying a multilayered financial cooperation network with Britain, a global financial hub that had the experience of going through the financial big bang, the foundation will be prepared for wider market advances and creative finance,” Cheong Wa Dae officials said.

As for Park’s drive for creative industries, she sought fortified industrial and technical cooperation in energy and nuclear power with Britain, originator of the concept of “creative economy.”

Park and Cameron’s meeting was held on the third day of Park’s state visit. Britain is Park’s second destination of her western European tour including France and Belgium.

During the summit talks, 11 memorandums of understanding worth some $3 billion were signed for cooperation in financial fields.

They included stronger cooperation between financial authorities, such as the MOU to support Korea’s establishment of a financial consumer protection agency next year. In April, Britain restructured its Financial Service Authority into two different agencies: the Prudential Regulation Authority to inspect the soundness of financial companies, and the Financial Conduct Authority to protect financial consumers and investors.

Various MOUs for buttressed cooperation between financial institutions were also signed, including for a capital increase for Hyundai Capital Services’ British subsidiary, and a syndicate loan worth $1 billion between the Export-Import Bank of Korea and U.K. Export Finance.

Others include MOUs among state-run institutions, private banks and companies, such as between Eximbank and Britain’s Barclays; Eximbank and Seadrill, a leading offshore deepwater drilling company; and Hana Bank and Barclays Africa.

“We expect to see effects of these MOUs beyond financial support. These institutions (of Britain) possess ample networks in seeking out projects worldwide. It means Korean companies will have wider opportunity to participate in those networks,” a Cheong Wa Dae official said.

In an effort to activate creative finances, the Seoul government also signed MOUs with venture capital investors of the two countries to pave the way for British venture capital to invest in Korean start-ups, and vice versa.

In terms of wider cooperation in nuclear power, energy technology and infrastructure, seven different MOUs were signed on the occasion of Park’s visit.

Britain is currently planning to close down 15 of its 16 nuclear power plants that have been deteriorating, and build 10 new plants by 2025. While Korea is not directly involved in the ongoing bidding for the project, Korea will seek wider cooperation by signing the MOU on comprehensive cooperation including a bilateral dialogue channel, the official explained.

“Britain has the technology to close down the power plant and has the experience of doing so, which Korea does not. We expect to see cooperation in this aspect,” the official said.

The two countries will also seek for wider technical cooperation partnership in the fields of renewable energy such as wind power, solar power, fuel cell and energy storage. An MOU was arranged between Pohang University of Science and Technology and Oxford University for joint works on hydrogen fuel cells.

During the summit, Korea’s participation in Britain’s infrastructure was also discussed, namely LG CNS’ bid to join Britain’s smart payment system for mass transportation. After the summit talks, Park scheduled a visit to Imperial College known for its world-class education and research in science, talks with Korean residents there, a special screening event for Korean movies, and a dinner hosted by Lord Mayor of London Roger Gifford.

Park is set to head to Belgium on Thursday after wrapping up her four-day stay in Britain. In Belgium, Park plans to meet with scientists and venture businesspeople before holding summit talks with Belgium Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo.

She will also hold summit talks with EU leadership, through which they will adopt a joint statement and set goals to broaden their bilateral relations to regional and international issues. Korea was the first Asian country to sign an FTA with the EU.

By Lee Joo-hee and news reports

(jhl@heraldcorp.com)

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