South Korea, S'pore to boost economic cooperation

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mrs Lee having lunch with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook at the Botanic Gardens yesterday. Mr Moon, who is here on a three-day state visit, said he and PM Lee agreed to expand bilatera
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mrs Lee having lunch with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook at the Botanic Gardens yesterday. Mr Moon, who is here on a three-day state visit, said he and PM Lee agreed to expand bilateral trade significantly and to finalise swiftly negotiations to amend their double tax avoidance pact. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mrs Lee having lunch with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook at the Botanic Gardens yesterday. Mr Moon, who is here on a three-day state visit, said he and PM Lee agreed to expand bilatera
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and South Korean President Moon Jae-in meeting with their delegations at the Istana yesterday.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Six agreements exchanged; both to review implementation of FTA, look at further liberalising tariffs

Singapore and South Korea yesterday vowed to step up economic cooperation and work together for peace and stability in the region.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and visiting South Korean President Moon Jae-in witnessed the exchange of six agreements on trade, investment, industry, energy, environmental cooperation, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups.

Both countries will launch a review of the implementation of the Korea-Singapore Free Trade Agreement within six months and look to further liberalise tariffs for certain products, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said in a statement.

Singapore and South Korea also reaffirmed their commitment towards the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, an Asean-led trade pact which also involves six of the grouping's trading partners: Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

PM Lee said at a joint press conference: "We look forward to substantially concluding the negotiations by the end of this year."

PM Lee and Mr Moon, who is on a three-day state visit, met for more than an hour and discussed specific ways that South Korea could work more closely with Singapore, which is Asean chairman this year, and the other Asean nations.

Under Mr Moon's New Southern Policy, South Korea is seeking to expand ties with South Asia and South-east Asia.

Mr Moon said he and PM Lee agreed to expand bilateral trade significantly and to finalise swiftly negotiations to amend their double tax avoidance agreement.

Trade between Singapore and South Korea was $45.4 billion last year, making South Korea Singapore's ninth largest trading partner. Singapore is South Korea's 10th largest trading partner.

PM Lee noted that Singapore companies are showing growing interest in Korean sectors such as real estate, manufacturing, electronics, precision engineering, transport, food, and information and communications technology.

The leaders also discussed strengthening air connectivity. PM Lee hoped both sides could expand their air services agreement and increase flight routes to cover other South Korean cities such as Busan.

Referring to the six agreements, PM Lee said both sides are exploring new areas of cooperation where they complement each other.

For instance, they will work together on technologies such as medical technology, artificial intelligence and the industrial Internet of Things.

PM Lee said: "The Republic of Korea is strong in technology and innovation, while Singapore is well-connected to the region."

The two countries also agreed to joint ventures in smart-city projects overseas.

Mr Moon said: "Singaporean companies are strong in smart-city development and management software, while Korean businesses excel in hardware such as information technology. "

Working together would help both take the lead in the smart-city industry in Asia and beyond, the South Korean leader added.

Another area of cooperation is in energy security and smart grids, which are electrical grids that use technology to detect energy usage remotely.

The leaders also discussed ways to grow relations between Asean and South Korea, such as upgrading the Asean-South Korea free trade area or having an Asean-Korea air services agreement, said PM Lee.

Mr Moon said: "I would like to see Korea-Asean cooperation expand in dimensions completely different from the past."

Mr Moon, whose visit ends today, also discussed regional issues with PM Lee. They agreed to work closely towards peace and stability in the region, including in cyber security and maritime security.

Mr Moon said Singapore contributed immensely towards ushering in a new era of peace on the Korean peninsula by hosting the historic summit between the United States and North Korea last month.

"On behalf of all Korean people, I would like to once again express my profound gratitude to the people of Singapore," he said.

PM Lee said Singapore believes constructive dialogue is necessary to peace in the region, and is happy to have hosted the summit.

"It is a long road ahead, with many more challenges to overcome. I hope the Singapore meeting has set things moving in the right direction."

He also said he was happy to accept an invitation from Mr Moon to visit South Korea.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2018, with the headline 'South Korea, S'pore to boost economic cooperation'. Print Edition | Subscribe