SEOUL – South Korea and Chile strengthened trade ties on Monday and opened new areas of cooperation amid a global digital revolution and the fight against climate change during an ongoing state visit by the Chilean president to Seoul.
During their meeting at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, Sebastian Piñera and his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, emphasized the importance of trade ties between the two countries, which led to the signing of a bilateral Free Trade Agreement 15 years ago.
That pact in 2004 was the first FTA to be signed between a Latin American and an Asian country; it was also the first such deal for Seoul, which since then has signed similar agreements with 16 countries and regions.
Highlighting this agreement and the strong relationship it embodies (trade volume between the two countries in 2018 was $6.28 billion, four times that before the FTA was signed), both leaders took the opportunity to champion multilateralism and regulated free trade at a time when countries such as the United States and Brazil have been promoting increasingly unilateral policies.
In a joint statement after the meeting, Piñera said that both countries have “agreed to speed up the process to update” their 2004 Free Trade Agreement in order to achieve a “modern and inclusive” pact.
Meanwhile, Moon said that he hoped to achieve greater economic cooperation between the two countries in future based on the progress of current discussions on the FTA.
Last year, the two countries agreed to begin negotiations to deepen the agreement. A first round of talks were held in Seoul, while the second is expected to take place shortly in Chile.
At the end of the summit on Monday, a cooperation agreement on defense and three memorandums of understanding on digital governance, transport and information and communications technologies with the aim of cooperating on big data, 5G technology (in which South Korea is a pioneer) and artificial intelligence, were signed.
These are some of the pillars of what has been dubbed the “fourth industrial revolution,” one of the four areas in which the two countries are going to “collaborate strongly and enthusiastically,” Piñera said.
The Chilean leader also said that the joint fight against climate change would be another high priority area of Chile’s cooperation with Seoul.
Piñera thanked Moon for his support and contributions in making the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and the Conference of the Parties (COP 25), which will be held in Santiago in November and December, a success.
He also expressed his government’s commitment to achieve carbon neutrality in the next two decades by transforming public transport and its energy sources, as well as driving its forest-promotion policy that has made the country one of the few in which the forest cover is growing instead of disappearing.
Piñera also thanked Moon for his efforts to advance the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and for his contributions in facilitating talks between the US and North Korea.
The official agenda of the president and first lady of Chile, Cecilia Moral, kicked off on Monday with a floral offering at the Seoul National Cemetery, where veterans of the Korean War (1950-53) are buried, after which they were received at the Blue House by Moon and his wife, Kim Jung-sook.
After the bilateral summit, both leaders had lunch with South Korean businessmen, and later Piñera visited the Samsung Innovation Museum in Suwon, south of Seoul.
Piñera’s visit to South Korea concludes a four-day trip to northeast Asia, during which he also took part in the Belt and Road International Forum, organized in Beijing by the Chinese government.