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Korea, Switzerland sign trade, tech deals

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Published : 2014-01-21 09:49
Updated : 2014-01-21 11:22

President Park Geun-hye applauds while watching “Korea Fantasy,” a performance on traditional Korean culture held at Paul Klee Center in Bern on Sunday.

(Yonhap News)
The leaders of South Korea and Switzerland on Monday agreed to promote bilateral cooperation on trade, science, technology and industrial innovation.

Presidents Park Geun-hye and Didier Burkhalter held a summit in Bern exploring ways to boost trade exchanges and strengthen cooperation in vocational education, technology and global security.

“President Burkhalter and I shared an understanding that nurturing excellent human talent is a key engine for the ‘creative economy’ and agreed to build a cooperative system in the area of vocational education,” Park said during a joint news conference after the summit.

After the summit, the two leaders attended a signing ceremony for 12 memorandums of understanding, including agreements on training in Switzerland for 20 Koreans working at Swiss companies after graduating from a vocational high school every year.

The two leaders also agreed on joint efforts to advance into other countries and for recognition of social security credits for workers from partner countries. The two sides also signed to improve investment conditions to help promote mutual business cooperation and boost exchanges between the research institutions and science colleges of each country.

“The two sides also shared an understanding that there is a big potential for cooperation if the original technologies and basic science of Switzerland are combined with our industrial technologies,” Park said during the news conference.

In a business forum held prior to the summit, Park urged small- and medium-sized businesses in the European country to invest more in Korea, citing the country’s efforts in promoting free trade agreements with China and Southeast Asian countries.

“South Korea already has FTAs with the United States, the EU and Southeast Asian nations, and has been in FTA negotiations with China as well,” she said. “For SMEs in Switzerland, Korea will serve as a good bridgehead for making inroads into these massive markets,” she said in the forum jointly hosted by the Federation of Korean Industries and Economy Swiss.

Park is currently in Switzerland for a four-day state visit. She is the first South Korean president on a state visit there since the two opened diplomatic ties in 1963.

Despite its relatively small population and lack of natural resources, Switzerland is one of the world’s richest economies, with per capita income nearing $80,000. “Its strong economy is based on its highly skilled labor force, cutting-edge technologies and industries manufacturing high-value-added products,” Cheong Wa Dae officials said.

“The two countries could generate synergy by boosting exchanges in these advanced technological sectors,” an official said. With the joint agreement, the two countries are expected to expand cooperation in the bio, nano and precision machinery industry as well as the energy, finance and medical sectors.

The two leaders also agreed to work together to urge North Korea to abandon its nuke program.

“The two countries agreed it was important for the international community to make united efforts if we are going to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear program,” Park said. “We agreed to work with the international community for this.”

During the summit, Park praised the Swiss’ contributions in keeping peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula with the country’s participation in the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission. The NNSC -- an impartial observer -- is the only institution that oversees the implementation of the armistice agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

Park also paid particular attention to European peace-building experiences, which could help with realizing her initiative to entrench peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

Switzerland is this year’s rotating chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Launched in 1995 as a permanent tool for confidence building, human rights protection and other security purposes, the OSCE has its roots in the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe -- a peace initiative, dubbed the “Helsinki process,” that forged the momentum to entrench peace in a divided Europe during the Cold War.

In a meeting with Korean residents on Sunday, Park stressed that she would lay the foundations for peaceful unification by maintaining a watertight security posture.

“You may have concerns for internal instability (observed) in North Korea,” she said. “I will do my best to open a new era of hope by reuniting (the two divided) people. So please let many European countries including Switzerland know of our unification policies to have their support,” she added.

On Tuesday, Park plans to visit a vocational training school in the Swiss capital of Bern and move to the ski resort of Davos for the annual World Economic Forum. At the global event participated in by business leaders and politicians, she will deliver a keynote speech at the forum to present her “creative economy” vision, officials said, adding that her trip to the Swiss ski town is for national investor relations or IR. Park also plans to meet global business leaders including CEOs of Cisco, Qualcomm, Saudi Aramco and Siemens.

Before Switzerland, Park was in India to boost economic and business ties with the world’s second-most populous country.

On Thursday last week, Park and her counterpart Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced that the two countries would elevate the level of the comprehensive economic partnership agreement, or CEPA, and strengthen diplomatic, defense and cultural cooperation for coprosperity. In a joint statement, the two leaders agreed to closely work together to revise an agreement on preventing double taxation and the current aviation treaty to help carriers increase their operations between the two countries.

Park also met Indian IT experts and business leaders including Anand Mahindra, chairman of Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra, which took over South Korea’s Ssangyong Motor in 2009. She asked for more investment in South Korea, and Mahindra said the company would invest about 1 trillion won ($940 million) in Ssangyong over the next four years.

The two state visits were Park’s first in her second year in office. The Switzerland trip was part of Park’s “sales diplomacy” drive aimed at strengthening Korea’s economic and business ties with the country, officials said.

On Sunday, Park reiterated the importance of building relations with the global community for the country’s economic reform. “The reason why I concentrate on the sales diplomacy is because our economy needs to be globalized in order to constantly generate energy for reform,” she said in a meeting with Korean residents in Bern.

She also vowed to focus on boosting the country’s economy during the next three years. Park returns on Thursday.

By Cho Chung-un and news reports (christory@heraldcorp.com)

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