After seven years of negotiations . . .
The trade ministers of South Korea and Indonesia signed an announcement today on a free trade deal – after seven and a half years of negotiations. The two countries will officially sign the agreement early next year, after which the parliaments of both countries will have to ratify the deal. Today’s announcement occurred before the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit, which marks the 30th anniversary of ASEAN-South Korea relations and will convene on Tuesday in Busan – South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s hometown. The leaders of Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Laos all attended this important summit.
Part of South Korea’s broader strategy . . .
The deal and the Summit are a further testament to the strengthening of ties between South Korea and Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia – a trend that began in 2017 when the then newly-elected Moon first laid out his New Southern Policy that aims to elevate South Korea’s relations with ASEAN countries to the level of Seoul’s traditional partners, such as the U.S., China, Japan, and Russia. Since then, bilateral trade between South Korea and ASEAN countries increased to a high of C$210 billion in 2018 – up from C$160 billion in 2016 – while two-way tourism reached 11 million people. On Monday, President Moon vowed to further deepen relations between South Korea and Southeast Asia, particularly in the areas of rural development, research and academic collaboration, technological innovation and startups, and infrastructure development.
Growing importance of Southeast Asia . . .
President’s Moon New Southern Policy makes sense at a time when South Korea’s relations with Japan and China have deteriorated, and while the country’s alliance with the U.S. appears to be shaky. The Policy also underscores the growing importance of Southeast Asia as a region promoting trade liberalization and multilateralism. In addition to Indonesia, Singapore’s free trade agreement with the EU came into force last week, potentially paving the way for a future deal between ASEAN and the EU. Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau’s reshuffled cabinet, notably the newly-appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, François-Philippe Champagne, will undoubtedly be paying increased attention to this dynamic region.
- Nikkei Asian Review: South Korea and Indonesia reach final agreement on free trade deal
- Straits Times: EU-Singapore free trade agreement comes into force
- Straits Times: President Moon Jae-in's vision for South Korea and ASEAN to prosper together