Trade ties between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations bloc and South Korea have been rapidly developing in recent years, but they need to advance to the next step, particularly in the area of supply chain, digital trade and climate change, according to experts at a roundtable held last week in Seoul.
The roundtable hosted by the ASEAN-Korea Center and the Korea Institute of International Economic Policy suggested future directions to benefit businesspeople and stakeholders with the ASEAN-Korea Free Trade Agreement and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. RCEP is a free trade pact among Asia-Pacific nations.
KIEP Director Kwak Sung-il cited the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy, a framework for cooperation among Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, as significant for ASEAN centrality and regional cooperation.
Kwak highlighted the Korean government’s annual support of $5 million for the Mekong Rok Cooperation Fund and $3 million to the Global Green Growth Institute for operating projects in ASEAN.
ASEAN-Korea Center Secretary-General Kim Hae-yong also acknowledged the Indo-Pacific as home to 65 percent of the world's population, accounting for 62 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and 46 percent of international trade.
Kim noted ASEAN and Korean leaders' commitments to build shared prosperity and peace in the region at the ASEAN-South Korea Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in November 2022.
"Challenges could also be an opportunity in disguise," stressed Kim, urging the 10 member countries of ASEAN and Korea to rightfully address and wisely respond to demanding times.
KIEP President Kim Heung-Chong underlined the strategic importance of the Indo-Pacific region to address blockade tendencies in the economy, security and advanced technology to restructure the supply chain.
"ASEAN is Korea's second-largest trading partner, and Korea is ASEAN's fifth-largest trading partner," said Kim, recommending that Korea solidify supply chain management, climate action and the digital sector to solve structural problems.
Meanwhile, Indonesian Ambassador to Korea Gandi Sulistiyanto ushered in ASEAN unity, centrality and capacity to address future challenges through ASEAN matters, ASEAN as the epicenter of growth and implementing ASEAN outlook in the Indo-Pacific.
He expressed Indonesia’s goal to solidify regional mechanisms for dealing with external economic shocks, referring to ASEAN Vision 2045, in his congratulatory remarks at the event.
"ASEAN must become a peaceful region, enter global stability and prosperity, and not be a proxy for any major power in the world," said Sulistiyanto, sharing ASEAN’s commitment to inclusive regional architecture for concrete operations in maritime cooperation, connectivity, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and the economy.
"Through constructive dialogue and partnership, we can achieve our common goal of building a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region," said Sulistiyanto.