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Trade minister to attend ASEAN meeting for economic partnership

South Korea’s trade minister will be attending key economic meetings with his counterparts in Southeast Asian countries this week as part of the government’s ongoing efforts to strengthen economic ties with the emerging region, his office said Tuesday.

Minister Kim Hyun-chong is to visit Singapore from Thursday to Saturday to attend a series of meetings: the ASEAN economic ministers’ meeting, ASEAN plus three (along with China and Japan), the East Asia Summit and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership ministerial meetings.

The trade policymaker’s goal for the upcoming trip is to foster long-term economic cooperation and to diversify Seoul’s trade channels amid the growing conflicts between Washington and Beijing, officials said.
Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong speaks at a parliamentary committee meeting on Aug. 23. (Yonhap)
Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong speaks at a parliamentary committee meeting on Aug. 23. (Yonhap)

At the economic ministers’ meeting, Kim will be giving shape to the “South Korea-ASEAN future community,” a vision suggested by President Moon Jae-in in November last year. He will also be discussing ways to expand the currently active South Korea-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement.

The ASEAN plus three meeting will involve talks on advancing collective economic cooperation between the ASEAN bloc and the South Korea-China-Japan trilateral bloc.

At the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership ministerial meeting, Kim and his counterparts will be looking at key points of contention and aiming to reach tangible outcomes within the year.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a massive regional trade deal involving 10 ASEAN members and six other countries, has been stalled over the past few years due to differences between the participants and major changes in global trade environments. The deal is characterized by a strong focus on tariff cuts only -- unlike the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which also encompasses intellectual property, environment and labor.

At the East Asia Summit ministerial meeting, economy-related ministers representing 18 East Asian states will be exchanging opinions on pending trade matters, including the growing level of trade protectionism exemplified by the recent actions of the United States.

Asia’s fourth-largest economy has been stressing the importance of the Southeast Asian nations under President Moon’s “New Southern Policy” initiative, an alternative to the conventional position of relying on trade with the US and China.

The country’s exports to ASEAN countries gained 5.9 percent on-year to $48.93 billion during the first half of this year, making the regional bloc the second-largest export market, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

By Bae Hyun-jung (