The outlook for economic partnerships between South Korea and the ASEAN region is optimistic, given the willingness on both sides to pursue stronger ties in the areas of trade and technology cooperation, according to a high-ranking official from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Economic Community.
“I am very optimistic about future partnership between ASEAN and Korea as efforts are ongoing to make sure the free trade agreement really works and to come up with results that benefit both regions,” said Aladdin D. Rillo, deputy secretary-general for the ASEAN Economic Community, in an interview that followed his keynote speech at The Korea Herald Biz Forum. The event took place in Seoul on Tuesday and was co-organized by the ASEAN-Korea Centre.
Since 2007, when the free trade agreement between Korea and the ASEAN nations took effect, ASEAN has become Korea’s second-largest export destination, accounting for 15.2 percent of Korea’s export market last year as compared with 10.4 percent in 2007.
According to Rillo, cooperation between the two sides was also discussed in Singapore in August at a meeting of economic ministers, who had gathered there to discuss visions for economic integration.
“During the meeting, the ministers recognized the strengthening of economic partnerships with the rest of the world, including Korea,” he said.
The deputy secretary-general said the economic leaders had discussed how to liberalize trade between ASEAN and Korea. One notable point of discussion was the need to further reduce tariffs on sensitive products, such as agricultural products.
“ASEAN has requested Korea in terms of what tariffs on sensitive products need to be eliminated under their trade agreement. Those requests were received by Korea, which is possibly in the process of reviewing the request,” he said.
Another interesting point of discussion, he said, was the consultations between ASEAN and Korea.
“For example, the Korean government has implemented initiatives for technological cooperation with ASEAN countries since last year. Countries in ASEAN have been very enthusiastic in engagement in the program,” he said.
Under the program, Korean enterprises provide technological support to the ASEAN nations to facilitate their technological development. Last year, two countries, Thailand and Malaysia, participated in the program. Currently, three countries -- the Philippines, Cambodia and Myanmar -- are engaged in diverse forms of technology development, including the development of agricultural machinery, through the program.
ASEAN is now embracing the fourth industrial revolution and taking on the challenge of the digital economy, he said.
There is a strong desire within ASEAN to promote e-commerce, as well as a recognition that the right regulatory environment should be put in place to support digital connectivity in the region, according to Rillo.
“I think this will help the integration process, considering that trade is not simply confined to movement of goods and services. In digital space, there are a lot of transactions going on now,” he said, adding he believes there is much room for future digital cooperation with Korea.
By Shin Ji-hye (firstname.lastname@example.org