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Seoul seeks trade deal with Uzbekistan, strives to diversify export channels


Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki speaks in a meeting of economy-related ministers held Monday at Seoul Government Complex. (Yonhap)
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki speaks in a meeting of economy-related ministers held Monday at Seoul Government Complex. (Yonhap)


South Korea will enter into talks with Uzbekistan by the end of the year, seeking to sign a bilateral trade deal, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said Monday.

It will also establish a platform to help local SMEs promote and sell their products through contactless global selling channels such as Amazon.

“Our economy continues to face difficulties, with exports logging negative growth for six months straight,” Hong said in a meeting of economy-related ministers held at the Seoul Government Complex.

The country saw its export volume stand at $39.66 billion last month, down 9.9 percent from a year earlier, prolonging the downtrend for the sixth consecutive month.

The key to export recovery, according to the fiscal chief, is to expand support for contactless industries and online export routes.

“While (the country’s) total export volume for the second quarter slipped 13.5 percent from the previous quarter, online exports soared 128.9 percent, indicating that contactless businesses are the core contributors to export recovery, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises,” he said.

To help Korean companies expand their overseas online sales channels, the government will work with global commercial platforms including Amazon, he added.

Products under the label “Brand K” -- a joint trademark for selected SME-manufactured items -- will be distributed via various overseas online channels on the basis of tailored market strategies using big data.

The government will also enhance partnerships between different business tiers, enabling SMEs to benefit from conglomerates’ overseas distribution channels and customer networks.

Responding to the rising level of trade protectionism and reinforced tariffs, the finance minister vowed to expand legal consultation services for small exporters.

In a separate move to revitalize stalled exports, Korea will work toward a bilateral free trade deal with Uzbekistan.

“As a follow-up action of the Korea-Uzbek deputy prime ministers’ meeting, we shall select some 90 joint investment projects and shape up bilateral economic cooperation,” Hong said.

“The plan is to wrap up the preliminary domestic procedures, such as the report to the National Assembly, within September and to kick off actual negotiations within the year.”

While the two countries have carried out a feasibility study on the proposed deal, Hong met with counterpart Sardor Umurzakov, Uzbekistan’s deputy prime minister for investment and foreign economic relations, in July in Seoul.

As of last year, Uzbekistan was the 35th-largest export destination for Asia’s fourth-largest economy, with outbound shipments reaching $2.3 billion, up 10.4 percent on-year.

The Moon Jae-in administration’s New Northern Policy, which seeks to boost economic and political ties with countries to the north of the Korean Peninsula, also covers initiatives targeting the Central Asian state.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)
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