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Korea calls for united voice against rising protectionism

South Korea's trade minister issued a call Friday for a united front from leading Asian and European economies against protectionist trends and for the promotion of open trade and investment to benefit all sides.

Paik Un-gyu, the minister of trade, industry and energy, made the request at the Asia-Europe Meeting, which is being attended by 250 trade ministers and senior officials from 51 nations to discuss trade and industrial issues.

"Today, the global economy faces new challenges. Protectionism is rising and industries around the world are undergoing fundamental structural changes," the policymaker said in opening remarks on the second day of the meeting at the Convention and Exhibition Center in southern Seoul. 

Paik Un-gyu (Yonhap)
Paik Un-gyu (Yonhap)

"I expect ASEM economy ministers to speak with a unified voice in support of the multilateral trading system and against protectionism, given that ASEM partners are the largest beneficiaries of free trade."

The ASEM trade ministers gathering is the seventh of its kind and the first in 12 years, after the last meeting was held in the Netherlands in 2005.

The minister also called attention to efforts toward enhancing digital and physical connectivity and collaboration in infrastructure between Asia and Europe to embrace the "Fourth Industrial Revolution."

"Indeed, in-depth discussions on sustainable and inclusive growth are more timely than ever with the advent of new, disruptive technologies," he said. "Korea has been pursuing inclusive and innovative growth, as we have been responding to the Fourth Industrial Revolution and transitioning to eco-friendly energy. In this regard, we look forward to actively cooperating with our ASEM partners."

ASEM was established in 1996 to boost ties between Asian and European countries. It comprises 20 Asian and 31 European nations, as well as ASEAN and the European Union. (Yonhap)