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’Korea-Peru FTA could be completed by November’

Korea Times

’Korea-Peru FTA could be completed by November’

By Kim Young-jin, Staff reporter

26 May 2010

Negotiations on a Korea-Peru free trade agreement (FTA) could be finalized by November, a development that would further enhance bilateral ties and precede a possible state visit by Peruvian President Alan Garcia, Peru’s vice foreign minister said Wednesday.

"We are in conversations through diplomatic channels about a visit by President Garcia around November," Nestor Popolizio said in an interview with The Korea Times in Seoul. "Of course, we would like to have the FTA finished by then."

President Lee Myung-bak last met with his Peruvian counterpart Garcia in November at a summit in Seoul, where the trade pact was an important agenda item.

Since kicking off negotiations a year ago, the two countries have held four rounds of talks. Popolizio, in Seoul to attend a forum on cooperation between Korea and Latin American and Caribbean countries, said the process has proceeded smoothly, with the two sides working to address Korea’s concerns regarding agricultural products.

Peru, rich in commodities such as gold, zinc and silver, is a key supplier of minerals to Korea. "But we would like to have agro-products and other kinds of products come into Korea as well," the vice minister said.

Popolizio said agriculture issues also arose during Peru’s successful FTA negotiations with Canada, the United States and the European Union.

"It is always an issue. Sometimes you have to protect your market. But you have to open and accommodate interests in order to reach an agreement," he said.

Discussions are underway to plan the next round of talks, with Peru hoping to hold them this summer.

Popolizio said the FTA, when implemented, will establish "stable and transparent" investment rules, sparking Korean investment and thereby creating jobs for Peru, the fastest growing economy in Latin America over the last decade.

The diplomat lauded the efforts of the government-run Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) in aiding his country’s social and economic development.

KOICA’s efforts, Popolizio said, are best exemplified by its work in the southeastern village of Ccorao, where it helped establish a school to teach participants to produce and sell crafts to tourists.

"The living standards of those people have improved dramatically since the program began," he said. "Such projects may seem small, but they fight poverty and promote a society of inclusion."

Korea’s economic rise, which has seen it transform from a recipient of aid to a donor nation, provides a valuable model for Latin America’s rapidly growing economies, Popolizio said.

"In particular, Korea has stressed education, healthcare, science and technology, and human resources and has expertise in those areas," he said. "We have to learn from its exemplary process."

The vice minister said his country has been closely watching the aftermath of the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan on March 26.

Immediately after a multinational investigation team announced that the vessel was blown apart by a North Korean torpedo, the Peruvian government issued a communique expressing its concern and condolences over the incident, calling for an international response to ensure stability on the Korean Peninsula.

Popolizio underlined the importance of having strong international partnerships during such times of difficulty.

"We are living in a globalized world, so we have to be interconnected and show support when one of our partners has a problem," he said. "In the end, having strong bilateral ties means you support your partners during such events, in a manner that is in accordance with international law."