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Korea’s new foreign policy to boost cooperation with Asean, Laos: diplomat

The Republic of Korea’s renewed foreign policy will advance relations and cooperation with Southeast Asian countries including Laos, the Korean Ambassador to Laos has said.
The ‘New Southern Policy’ under President Moon Jae-in’s administration is designed to expand economic ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the 10-member bloc of which Laos is a member.
“President Moon Jae-in has committed that during his term he will strive to increase Asean-Korea trade relations [value] to grow at the level of Korea-China trade,” Ambassador Shin Sung-soon told local media in a recent interview at the Lao News Agency.
At present, two-way trade between Asean and Korea is valued at just over US$110 billion a year, which is behind the US$200 billion in trade between Korea and China – Korea’s largest trading partner.
Previously, Korea’s foreign policy focus was centred on security cooperation with powerful nations, the ambassador said.
“In our current new foreign policy, we focus on enhancing relations and cooperation with countries in the Southeast Asia region,” he told the media through an interpreter.
Next year, Asean and Korea will hold a special summit in Korea to mark the 30th anniversary of their relations.
In the context of bilateral ties with Laos, the ambassador pledged to exert every effort to boost bilateral relations and cooperation between Laos and Korea, adding that both sides have enjoyed good relations and cooperation.
Business analysts from Korea have visited Laos to explore its market potential, he noted.
The Korean embassy is currently cooperating with the Korea International Cooperation Agency and a Korean trade representative office in Vientiane to explore potential Lao products that can be exported to Korea in an attempt to increase bilateral trade, the diplomat said. To access the Korean market, Lao food producers need to improve the quality of their products to meet South Korean standards otherwise they will not benefit from the Asean-Korean Free Trade Agreement (FTA), an official from the Asean-Korean Centre said during his recent visit to Laos.
The centre’s Trade and Investment Unit Deputy Director, Mr Sung-pil Um, said the FTA offered great opportunities for Lao agribusiness to explore opportunities in the South Korean market.
Lao agribusinesses were also advised to make their packaging more attractive to Korean consumers and to provide information about nutritional content.
To increase bilateral trade, Ambassador Shin said it was necessary to boost investment cooperation between both sides.
Korea and Laos have witnessed a significant increase in bilateral trade, which reached US$120 million in 2017.
From 1989 to 2015, Korean companies invested as much as US$751 million in total. Korea is currently the fifth largest foreign investor in Laos.
The ambassador said that over the past few years Korean investment in Laos has increased significantly as more Korean companies are exploring opportunities in Laos, which will serve as a major hub connecting Korea and Asean countries.
This year, Korea is preparing a series of programmes to promote Korean products and services in Laos. More than 100 Korean companies operating in the fields of automobiles, hydropower, finance, and healthcare are set to be invited, the diplomat told Vientiane Times previously.
To further enhance bilateral relations and cooperation, Korea plans to invite Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith to make an official visit to Korea in October this year.
Meanwhile, President Moon plans to pay a state visit to Laos next year, the ambassador said.
He was confident that the planned visit would give tremendous momentum to the enhancement of bilateral relations and cooperation.

By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
(Latest Update
June 5,

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