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Top economic advisers of Seoul, Washington open new hotline

President Moon Jae-in's chief of staff for policy Kim Sang-jo (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in's chief of staff for policy Kim Sang-jo (Yonhap)

A new instant line of communications has been launched between Seoul and Washington to further boost cooperation on economic, trade and other global issues such as climate change, Cheong Wa Dae announced Wednesday.

Though the allies already have a long-established hotline to discuss security issues, this is the first time they have set up a separate line for direct communications to address economic and policy issues.

The new communications line followed the first phone call between Kim Sang-jo, President Moon Jae-in’s chief of staff for policy, and his US counterpart, Brian Deese, the director of the White House National Economic Council, earlier on the day.

“The new hotline reflects the need for closer economic ties between the two countries,” said Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Kang Min-seok in a news briefing.

During their call, which lasted 35 minutes, the top economic advisers touched on a slew of pending issues from the COVID-19 response to the economic fallout from the prolonged pandemic and climate change.

According to Seoul’s readout of the call, Deese stressed an aggressive fiscal policy as the key to getting the world economy back on track, asking for Seoul’s active participation in the process. Kim agreed to join the global efforts, saying the Moon administration’s policy principles based on inclusive and sustainable growth also align with those of the Biden administration.

Both sides pinpointed climate change as one of the key areas where the two countries can cement ties further. Both Korea and the US plan to host separate climate change summits in the coming months, which are likely to be held online, before a global summit in the UK later this year.

Deese, who served in several posts during the Barack Obama administration, is known for his leading role in crafting the 2015 Paris Agreement. During the conversation, Kim welcomed the US’ reentry to the climate accord.

Kang, the Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson, declined to comment on whether their phone call covered more specific issues such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Experts say the trade pact is likely to become a hot-button issue in the US-China trade war later in the year as the two superpowers are mulling their entry into a free trade area with 11 Asia-Pacific nations that together comprise a market of around 500 million people. Korea has also started discussions on joining the bloc.

According to Cheong Wa Dae sources, Washington reached out first for the call with Seoul’s top economic adviser and the two had a friendly dialogue as they both studied at Yale. Deese has a degree in law from the elite school, while Kim, former head of the nation’s antitrust watchdog, participated in a Yale fellowship program.

By Lee Ji-yoon (