Park vows to ink more FTAs

By Kim Yon-se

Korea plans to invest W4tr in venture start-ups by 2017

  • Published : Feb 25, 2014 - 20:42
  • Updated : Feb 25, 2014 - 20:44
President Park Geun-hye reads a statement on her three-year economic innovation plan at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Tuesday. 
(Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday pledged to actively expand the number of free-trade agreements with major economies during the remainder of her five-year tenure.

During a speech marking the first anniversary of her inauguration, Park said she was aiming to expand Korea’s FTAs by 2017 to the extent that their combined size would account for more than 70 percent of the world’s total gross domestic product.

Park announced these and other ambitious goals as a part of a three-year vision for renovating the economy in a televised speech.

“(The administration) plans to complete the FTA talks and sign deals with China, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and Vietnam as soon as possible,” she said.

She stressed that the nation had implemented nine bilateral FTAs with economic powers such as the EU and the United States and is about to conclude talks with two more.

Linking the FTAs and the export-driven economy, she said it was urgent for Korea to foster a domestic demand-oriented economy. “Only 2.7 percent of small and mid-sized enterprises are currently carrying out exports,” she said.

For her vision of the creative economy, the president said the administration “would pour 4 trillion won ($3.6 billion) in state funds into the venture start-up segment over the coming years.”

Source: Ministry of Strategy and Finance

She also pledged to make the country’s per capita national income rise from the present level of about $30,000 to $40,000 by 2017, while raising the employment rate to 70 percent.

“There will be no future for us unless we break the protracted cycle of low growth by changing the fundamentals of our economy and rectify abnormal practices,” she said.

Park previously outlined the economic reform plan during her New Year’s news conference last month, saying it would focus on strengthening economic fundamentals by rectifying problematic practices deeply rooted in Korean society.

Tuesday’s announcement was a fleshed-out version of this vision.

Park renewed her commitment to reforming debt-ridden public institutions, removing investment-hampering regulations, rooting out unfair market practices, strengthening the country’s social safety net, realizing her creative economy vision and pursuing more free-trade deals.

Korea has seen relatively low growth in recent years amid global economic difficulties. The plan seeks to help Asia’s fourth-largest economy break out of a protracted sluggish trend and make what Park calls a “quantum leap.”

The move suggests that Park sees the economy as a priority in her second year in office and that she is committed to making the ambitious vision a reality, with tangible results before her term ends in early 2018.

The plan is also reminiscent of a series of “five-year economic development plans” that her late father, former President Park Chung-hee, carried out to lift South Korea from poverty in the 1960s and ’70s.

By Kim Yon-se and news reports