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Korea seeking to resume FTA talks with Mexico

Korea Times, Seoul

Korea seeking to resume FTA talks with Mexico

By Na Jeong-ju, Korea Times correspondent

1 July 2010

MEXICO CITY ― President Lee Myung-bak will hold a summit with Mexican President Felipe Calderon Thursday (local time) to discuss an early resumption of talks on signing a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), Cheong Wa Dae said.

The Korea-Mexico FTA talks began in 2007, but have made little progress due mainly to Mexico’s worries over a possible trade imbalance.

In an interview with a Mexican daily, El Universal, published Monday, Lee stressed that the FTA will not only increase trade between Korea and Mexico, but spur cultural and people-to-people exchanges, moving their strategic partnership forward.

"Mexico’s top 10 export items include parts for information technology products, petrochemical products, copper, zinc, aluminum and salt. Korea will be a big market for exporters of such items," Lee said.

Mexico should know that the FTA is mutually beneficial to both sides and will be a significant turning point for their cooperative partnership, he said.

Their two-way trade volume between Korea and Mexico totaled $8.1 billion in 2009.

More than 1,400 Korean firms operate in Mexico, mostly engaged in the manufacturing of electronics goods, steel and automobile parts, employing about 40,000 local workers.

President Lee said the two countries have great potential for mutually beneficial cooperation in various sectors.

"The two nations can be strategically important partners to provide a gateway for their advancement into Northeast Asia and North America, respectively," he said.

During the summit, Lee and Calderon will discuss major bilateral issues, including trade, investment, aviation, infrastructure, energy, culture and consular affairs.

The summit will also focus on securing the country’s support for Seoul’s U.N. diplomacy against North Korea for its sinking of a South Korean warship in March, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

The leaders will also discuss how to foster cooperation on the global stage and other issues of mutual concern, such as the security condition on the Korean Peninsula. Mexico is a major player at the U.N., the G-20 and the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum.

South Korea expects Mexico’s support for its efforts to punish North Korea through the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) for its sinking of the Navy frigate Cheonan.

On June 4, the Korean government sent a letter to Mexico’s ambassador to the U.N. asking it to take up the issue of North Korea’s naval attack on the warship. Mexico chaired the UNSC for the month of June.

Lee arrived in the Mexican capital, the final leg of his weeklong trip, Wednesday. The trip had also taken him to Canada and Panama.

Upon arrival, he visited a national cemetery to pay homage to fallen Mexican patriots and met with a group of South Korean residents.

Before leaving for Mexico, Lee held a summit in Panama City with his Colombian counterpart, Alvaro Uribe. They agreed to step up the ongoing FTA talks between Korea and Colombia, which began last year, said the presidential office.