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Seoul has ‘much more to offer’ in the global chip supply chain: US diplomat

South Korea's Second Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-moon (right)and Jose Fernandez, US undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, pose for a photo as they meet for the sixth Senior Economic Dialogue held in Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap)
South Korea's Second Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-moon (right)and Jose Fernandez, US undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, pose for a photo as they meet for the sixth Senior Economic Dialogue held in Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap)


South Korea is an essential partner in the global semiconductor supply chain and has much more to offer, a visiting senior US diplomat in charge of economic and trade policy said Friday. 

Jose Fernandez, US undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, made the remark at the start of the sixth Senior Economic Dialogue with Second Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-moon. Marking his first trip to the region since taking office in August, his weeklong trip to Tokyo and Seoul is widely viewed as part of Washington’s efforts to effectively corral allies to counter China’s ambition to dominate key industries, including semiconductors. 

During the meeting that lasted more than three hours, the two sides touched on various issues, including the supply chain, infrastructure, COVID-19 response, climate change and science technology, among others, according to the Foreign Ministry. Specifically, the two sides also proposed to strengthen cooperation to develop key technologies, including the 5G and 6G networks, artificial intelligence and biotechnology. 

“The semiconductor shortages that were caused by COVID-19 highlighted the critical functions that these chips play in our daily lives and put a spotlight on Korea as a leader and essential partner in the global semiconductor supply chain,” Fernandez said at the start of the meeting. “We firmly believe that Korea has much more to offer to the global economy. You’ve got world-class technical expertise, high-quality transparent investment and foreign legislation and more.”

He stressed that this kind of cooperation brings “enormous value” from Korea to its partners and to the multilateral organizations. 

Choi in turn stressed that science and technology issues between the two countries are a “matter of priority,” noting it is getting more difficult to “separate security and geopolitical issues from science and technology.” 

He also took note of the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific economic framework, saying that it appears to be an “umbrella initiative” and that South Korea will sincerely explore possible opportunities to make contributions in this regard. 

First revealed by Biden in October at the East Asia Summit, the Indo-Pacific economic framework encompasses a series of partnerships on supply chain, digital trade, semiconductors, export controls and decarbonization, among other aspects. The framework, which is still vague in details and is expected to be announced early next year, is viewed as a US attempt to enlist allies to roll back China’s growing trade and economic influence in the region. 

During the talks, the two sides did not discuss any topics directly targeting China, according to a Foreign Ministry official, nor did they specifically discuss the Indo-Pacific economic framework. 

“When US Trade Representative Katherine Tai visited Korea (in November), the US had officially asked South Korea through the Trade Ministry to join the Indo-Pacific economic framework,” the official said. “It’s still a pending issue and we are examining it internally.”

At the meeting, Choi said the Korean government is also paying close attention to the Biden administration’s recovery plan and legislation, including the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Build Back Better Act and Innovation and Competition Act. 

“We sincerely hope that the bilateral trade and investment relations between our two countries will benefit from these acts, particularly in the areas of semiconductors, EV batteries and green energy,” said Choi.


By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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