Korea, Uzbek to begin trade negotiation this year

Christel Deskins

The government will begin trade negotiations with Uzbekistan this year, in the latest move to advance President Moon Jae-in’s New Northern Policy initiative to improve ties with countries in Central Asia. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said Monday that talks will begin this year upon completion of […]

The government will begin trade negotiations with Uzbekistan this year, in the latest move to advance President Moon Jae-in’s New Northern Policy initiative to improve ties with countries in Central Asia.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said Monday that talks will begin this year upon completion of the necessary procedures including submitting a report to the National Assembly this month on the development of working-level bilateral agreements so far.

“A joint feasibility study on Korea-Uzbek trade was concluded, July 6, followed by a public hearing July 31,” he said during a ministerial-level meeting at the Seoul Government Complex in Gwanghwamun. “The government will initiate trade talks to strengthen the country’s foothold in a market with great growth potential.”

The government expects tangible economic results from a partnership with Uzbekistan, among key countries which the government calls “New Northern Nations,” alongside Russia and Mongolia.

Most pressing is prompt and detailed cooperation in advancing almost 100 bilateral business projects, including 39 outlined in April, 2019, in a summit in Uzbekistan, and 57 outlined April 13 during a telephone conversation.

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev will come to Korea to strengthen the partnership within the year, according to Ministry of Economy and Finance, following a July 7 visit by Sardor Umurzakov, the country’s deputy prime minister for investments and foreign economic affairs.

The state visit will bolster “investment development,” which the ministry called an advanced form of turnkey project financing. This is a high-value creation growth initiative whereby Korean developers oversee and manage the entire process, including business model planning, equity investment, product purchases, construction and facility operation.

Also to be discussed is the extension of a three-year joint business project concerning a $500 million (593 billion won) Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) set to expire in 2020. Under the project, Korea helped the country set up a school of medicine, a national cancer center and a national geographical information system.

The announcement comes amid growing trade volume between Korea and Uzbekistan over the past few years.

Data from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy showed Korea’s exports to the Central Asian country spiked to $2.1 billion in 2018, up 79.4 percent from a year earlier, a rapid increase from $1.1 billion in 2017 when the year-on-year jump was 27.2 percent.

Key export items include cars, car parts and electronic appliances among other consumer goods. Over 60 Korean firms, including Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics and POSCO International, have set up corporate bodies there.

The Korean Agency for Technology and Standards supervised by the trade ministry held a consultative meeting with its Uzbek counterpart the UZSTANDART Agency last November, over technology-related regulations among overall certification rules, an issue crucial for Korean firms’ exports.

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