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S. Korea, Russia to begin preparations for FTA negotiations: Moon

Kicker: South Korea’s president calls for expanding Trans-Siberian Railway to Busan

President Moon Jae-in on Friday announced a plan to launch negotiations for South Korea’s first free trade agreement with Russia, calling for joint efforts to boost the two countries’ bilateral trade to over $30 billion by 2020. 

During a business forum in Moscow, Moon said he would agree with Russian President Vladimir Putin to begin domestic processes aimed at launching FTA negotiations related to the service and investment sector.

 The South Korean president said that he expects the FTA to encompass agreements on goods as well, urging the two countries to reach a “comprehensive, mutually-beneficial” agreement “as soon as possible.

President Moon and Russian Prime Minister Medvedev pose before holding talks in Moscow on Thursday. (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap)
President Moon and Russian Prime Minister Medvedev pose before holding talks in Moscow on Thursday. (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap)

“I think South Korea-Russia FTA will be a starting point” for achieving the goal of reaching $30 billion in trade and 1 million in the number of visitors between South Korea and Russia by 2020,” said Moon.

The initiative is part of Moon’s efforts to enhance economic ties with Russia, which the president has emphasized during his three-day state-visit to Russia, which included a summit with Putin and a historic address to Russian lawmakers.

After arriving in Moscow earlier Thursday, Moon was set to hold a summit with Putin on Friday to discuss ways to improve trilateral economic cooperation between the two Koreas and Russia amid a detente on the Korean Peninsula.

And there was one project that the president stressed during his meetings with Russian political leaders and policymakers: expanding the Trans-Siberian railway all the way to the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula.

“Among the trilateral cooperation on the railway, electricity, and energy, connecting railways (between Russia and the two Koreas) appears to be most likely,” said Moon during his meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday.

Moon noted there is “a lot in common” between the South Korean government’s Northern Policy and the Russian government’s New East Policy, as both aim to develop the cross-border region with North Korea.

Medvedev agreed that that the prospect of trilateral cooperation is rising as North Korea and the US improve their ties following the historic summit in Singapore on June 12, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

The Russian prime minister also showed “great interest” in connecting electricity networks across the region and enhancing cooperation on developing natural gas in Russia, presidential spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom said.

The meeting followed Moon’s speech at the Russian parliament in Moscow, during which he laid out his vision of enhancing trilateral cooperation between the two Koreas and Russia and connecting the Trans-Siberian Railway to the South Korean port city of Busan.

Moon also stressed that such trilateral cooperation would help establish an economic community in Northeast Asia. If the two Koreas replace the current armistice agreement with a peace treaty, the Northeast Asia region will be able to establish its own “collective security system,” he added.

“I have always hoped for permanent peace and common prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and Eurasia. I’m hoping the Russian lawmakers will join that journey,” Moon said in a special speech delivered at Russia’s State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament.

“Through permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula, I’m hoping that the Trans-Siberian Railway will extend all the way to the southern port city of Busan, where I grew up. I hope you will join our efforts to open up new possibilities and common prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.”

The president’s trip to Russia followed his two summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the truce border village of Panmunjeom, where the two leaders declared there would never be another war on the Korean Peninsula, while Kim also agreed to denuclearize his country.

By Yeo Jun-suk(