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(2nd LD) S. Korean, Israeli presidents agree to seek early FTA deal

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Yonhap News - 15 July 2019

(2nd LD) S. Korean, Israeli presidents agree to seek early FTA deal
By Lee Chi-dong

The presidents of South Korea and Israel agreed Monday to push for an early deal in talks on a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) during a summit in Seoul.

If the two sides forge an FTA, their economic cooperation in investment, services and other sectors will expand sharply, President Moon Jae-in said at the start of the Cheong Wa Dae summit with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

"The two countries have great potential for the development of their relations, having a mutually supplementary economic cooperation structure and sharing the common goal of nurturing future, cutting-edge industries," he emphasized.

He noted that two-way trade hit an all-time high of US$2.7 billion last year.

Rivlin said that the people of Israel and South Korea have "big similarities" in terms of their rise from the ashes of war and miraculous economic growth.

They both also face the crucial task of protecting their people from military threats on their doorsteps, he added.

In the summit, Moon and Rivlin agreed on the need to strike an FTA deal as early as possible for "optimal win-win cooperation," Cheong Wa Dae said later in a press release.

The two sides began FTA talks in May 2015 and have had several rounds of negotiations. South Korea mainly exports vehicles, wireless communication devices and synthetic resins to Israel. Among import items are chipmaking equipment and applied electronics goods.

Moon expressed hope that Israel will share its experience in promoting high-tech startups, as they agreed to foster substantive partnerships in such sectors as the hydrogen economy, artificial intelligence, autonomous cars and 5G networks.

They pointed out the importance of expanding people-to-people exchanges, especially among college students and academics.

Moon briefed Rivlin on recent Korean Peninsula security conditions including his three-way gathering with U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on June 30.

He requested Jerusalem’s continued support for the Korea peace process, to which Rivlin reaffirmed his country’s commitment.

Cheong Wa Dae did not reveal whether the issue of sanctions against Iran was discussed in their talks.

On the occasion of the summit, South Korea and Israel signed two accords aimed at promoting ties on higher education and hydrogen energy.

Rivlin arrived in Seoul on Sunday for a five-day stay. He is the first Israeli president to visit South Korea in nine years.

On Sunday night, he visited the Lotte World Tower in eastern Seoul, according to Lotte officials.

 source: Yonhap News