( S. Korea, India agree to speed up free trade talks
By Yoo Cheong-mo
SAPPORO, Japan, July 8 (Yonhap) — South Korea and India on Tuesday agreed to accelerate ongoing negotiations for the conclusion of a bilateral comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA) in a bid to further expand two-way trade, which topped US$10 billion last year.
The agreement was reached during summit talks between South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, held here on the sidelines of the G8 summit of major industrialized countries.
Lee, accompanied by Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan and senior presidential secretaries for economic and foreign affairs, arrived in Sapporo earlier on Tuesday to begin his two-day G8 itinerary, which includes his first appearance in an expanded G8 meeting and bilateral summit talks with U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
South Korea and India have held five rounds of CEPA negotiations thus far, but the pact — which is similar to a free trade agreement — has yet to be concluded due to remaining disputes over rules of origin, services and agricultural trade. The two countries agreed at a summit meeting in February 2006 to conclude the CEPA negotiations by end of this year.
"Lee and Singh agreed to closely cooperate for an early settlement of the two-way CEPA, while expressing satisfaction at the rapidly growing bilateral trade which topped $10 billion in 2007," Lee’s office said in a press release.
"The two leaders also agreed to establish a regular vice minister-level strategic meeting for discussions on elevating bilateral relations."
Meanwhile, Lee asked Singh to pay closer attention to South Korean steelmaker POSCO’s troubled bid to build a 12 million-ton-capacity steel plant in the eastern Indian state of Orissa at a cost of US$12 billion, the single largest foreign investment project in India, according to Lee’s spokesman Lee Dong-kwan.
"At the request of Lee, the Indian prime minister immediately promised to do his best to help POSCO begin construction work on the steel mill project in August," said the spokesman, explaining the POSCO project has been delayed due to difficulties in securing real estate property for the steel mill.