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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Korea, Chile agree to enter into '2nd stage of FTA' to upgrade ties

Korea, Chile agree to enter into '2nd stage of FTA' to upgrade ties
SANTIAGO, CHILE (Yonhap) -- Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera agreed Friday to further upgrade cooperation between the two countries, building upon their rapidly expanding business ties under a free trade agreement.

"The two countries have shown a very successful case in the first stage of an FTA. In the second stage, we should expand cooperation to various areas, such as education, culture, mining and renewable energy," Lee said during a joint news conference.

The Chilean leader also said the two sides agreed to enter into a second stage of the FTA to deepen and upgrade relations. Pinera also expressed hope for greater cooperation with South Korea in education, renewable energy and science and technology.

Chile is the first country to sign a free trade agreement with South Korea. Since the pact went into effect in 2004, trade volume between the two countries has increased 4.6 fold, to US$7.24 billion last year. South Korea's market share in Chile has also doubled to 6.4 percent.

Lee praised Chile as an "exemplary country" that shows that its economy and the partner nation's economy can grow together through free trade. Lee also thanked Pinera for making pro-trade remarks during a G20 summit in Mexico earlier this week.

"As both nations have the same values of aiming for democracy, a free market economy and free trade, we intend to strengthen cooperation indefinitely," Lee said during the joint news conference.

After the summit talks, the two sides signed three cooperation agreements, one on offshore energy generation, such as tidal power plants, another on joint research and development into renewable energy and other green energy technologies, and the third on preventing mine-related pollution.

Pinera has expressed strong interest in renewable energy cooperation with South Korea, especially since he visited the world's largest tidal power plant on South Korea's west coast in March. He was in Seoul to attend an anti-nuclear-terrorism summit.

During Friday's summit, Pinera spoke of his tour to the Shihwa power plant, praising South Korea as a global leader in green growth and emphasizing the need for greater cooperation between the two countries in renewable energy and the environment, the presidential office said.

The power plant at the artificial sea-water Lake Shihwa on the west coast near Seoul is the world's largest, with a generation capacity of 254,000 kilowatts per day, enough to provide power to a city with a population of 500,000.

Chile is a promising market for South Korean firms in the renewable energy industry. The South American nation relies on renewable energy for about 3 percent of its energy needs, and plans to increase that to 20 percent by 2020, officials said.

The two sides also agreed to push for greater cooperation between South Korea and the Pacific Alliance, consisting of Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Peru, which seeks free exchange of goods, services, capital and cooperation in energy and infrastructure.

Lee later attended a meeting of business leaders of the two countries and called for greater investment in South Korea, saying his nation can serve as a stepping stone for Chilean firms trying to expand in Asia.

"South Korea has the most FTAs in Asia and Chile has the most FTAs in the world," he said. "Chile is the best place to do business in Central and South Asia ... I say that South Korea can also offer you big opportunities as a gateway to Asia."

Green growth -- seeking economic growth through environment-friendly technologies -- is one of the most promising areas of cooperation between the two countries, Lee said, referring to Chile's plan to meet 20 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources.

Lee arrived in Chile on Thursday from Brazil, where he attended a U.N. sustainable development summit. Chile is the third leg of a four-nation Latin American trip that already took the South Korean president to Mexico for a G20 summit. After Chile, Lee will make a state visit to Colombia.

In historical terms, Chile in 1949 became the first country in Latin America to recognize South Korea as a sovereign state. South Korea's government was founded in 1948 after the Korean Peninsula was liberated from Japan's colonial rule in 1945 and then divided between North and South.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between South Korea and Chile, forged in 1962, and Lee is the first South Korean president to visit Chile in eight years, since the late Roh Moo-hyun in 2004.

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