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Korea, Italy to expedite FTA

Korea Herald, Seoul

Korea, Italy to expedite FTA

By Kim Ji-hyun and Hwang Jang-jin

14 September 2009

The leaders of South Korea and Italy agreed to expedite a free trade agreement between Seoul and the European Union yesterday in a summit in which culture eclipsed politics.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano arrived in Seoul on Sunday for a four-day trip. He is the first Italian president to visit South Korea in 125 years since the countries established diplomatic ties in 1884.

Presidents Lee Myung-bak asked Italy’s support for Korea’s bid to host the next Group of 20 summit early next year. Rome heads the G8 conference and Seoul will chair the G20 forum next year.

The two leaders also agreed to boost bilateral cooperation in economy and culture.

"The two leaders engaged in an in-depth discussion concerning how to promote substantive ties between Korea and Italy in various areas, including ways to further bilateral collaboration within the G8 and G20 frameworks, the enhancement of comprehensive Korea-EU relations, including the Korea-EU FTA and bilateral cooperation for the success of the 2012 Yeosu World Expo and the 2015 Milano World Expo," presidential spokesman Park Sun-kyoo said.

Korea will host the world expo in Yeosu in 2012 and Italy will hold the 2015 edition in Milano.

"President Lee expressed his appreciation to the Italian president for his country’s endorsement of the Korea-EU FTA in July on the occasion of the G8 Expanded Summit in L’Aquila," he said.

"President Lee asked for the Italian government’s enhanced support and collaboration for the early conclusion of the FTA."

The landmark deal will scrap tariffs for an annual $106 billion trade within five to seven years. Italy which had been reluctant to support the deal changed its position after Lee met with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Lee and Napolitano also agreed to enhance cooperation in culture and science.

The Italian leader stressed cooperation in cultural and exhibition industries in time for the recent opening of the exhibition hall in Yeongjong Island for multi-billion-dollar fashion district called Milano Design City, which will be complete in 2017.

The Leonardo da Vinci Exhibition and a new Italian Embassy building have been opened as well.

"Napolitano said these moves have significant bearing in making bilateral ties future oriented and stressed the need for continuing collaboration in the exhibition industry and in other cultural fields," Cheong Wa Dae said.

Italy and South Korea share a relevant interest in science and technology, Italian Ambassador to Seoul Massimo Andrea Leggeri said.

"The capability of Italian scientists both in fundamental research and in some very special niches of most advanced technological fields is basically complementary with extraordinary South Korean capability to the fast development of technology and industrial products. In the last 15 years, many important collaborations and projects have been developed and implemented," the ambassador said.

In December, Italian and Korean governments plan sign an agreement to strengthen science and technology cooperation which will focus on agriculture, biotechnology, health, information and communication technology, robotics and many others.

Napolitano also expressed support for Seoul’s policy on the denuclearization of North Korea and said his country will work closely with South Korea to implement U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874 which was adopted in response to against the North’s second atomic test in May.

On the sidelines of the summit, Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan met his Italian counterpart Franco Frattini.

Yu discussed pending bilateral issues with Frattini, including peninsular security and the FTA.

Yu asked Frattini for continued support for a peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear standoff.

The two also talked of the latest on the global economic downturn and how nations of the G-8 and G-20 may help extricate the international community from the ongoing crisis.

Minister Yu is expected to accompany President Lee on his upcoming trip to the United States for the G-20 financial summit.