ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit
The ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit was held in Busan on December 11-12 under the theme “Bringing Trust, Bringing Happiness”, in celebration of 25 years of dialogue between Korea and the ASEAN nations. The ASEAN nations, as a group, are Korea’s second largest trade partner, with the trade volume totaling US $135 billion last year. The summit was an opportunity for Korea to reaffirm ties with the region and boost the Korea-ASEAN strategic partnership.
At the end of the two-day summit, the leaders adopted a joint statement on the future vision of the Korea-ASEAN partnership. In the joint statement, the leaders assessed that Korea-ASEAN relations have deepened and broadened over the past 25 years since the establishment of dialogue relations in 1989, and noted the increase in trade volume and mutual investment over the years.
In order to strengthen cooperation, Korea and the ASEAN reaffirmed their commitment to promote dialogue between the two parties with the aim of having a friendly, mutually beneficial, meaningful and strategic partnership. Korea and the ASEAN will strengthen efforts to boost economic cooperation, in order to improve the trade balance between both sides where possible by providing greater market access for goods and services. They agreed to maximize the utilization of the Korea-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (FTA), aiming to expand trade volume up to US $200 billion by 2020. They will also seek to conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations by the end of 2015.
Korea and the ASEAN agreed to further promote people-to-people contacts to deepen mutual understanding and friendship, and the ASEAN welcomed Korea’s efforts to simplify the visa process for Southeast Asian nationals. Korea and the ASEAN also agreed to further cooperate in the areas such as education, human capital development, culture, science, and environment and disaster management.
Both parties shared the view that it is important to promote peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, and agreed to continue efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner. They also agreed to strengthen cooperation to address global challenges such as climate change, environmental degradation, food security, energy security and communicable diseases.
On the sidelines of the summit, President Park Geun-hye met with the leaders of the 10 ASEAN nations. On December 9, President Park held talks with Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, celebrating 30 years of diplomacy between Korea and Brunei. The two leaders signed a double tax avoidance agreement, as well as memorandums of understanding (MOUs) to enhance cooperation in agriculture and education. The following day, President Park met Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak. They recalled how the Look East Policy (Malaysia’s economic policy introduced in 1981 that sought to learn from Japan and Korea’s growth experience) helped Malaysia and Korea establish a special relationship, and agreed to boost cooperation through the second wave of the Look East Policy.
Meanwhile, Korea and Vietnam concluded negotiations for a free trade deal at a signing ceremony witnessed by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and President Park on December 10. Vietnam is Korea’s second largest trading partner among the ASEAN member states and the single largest investment destination. The Korea-Vietnam FTA is expected to be mutually beneficial. Once tariffs on materials and parts are abolished, Korean firms will be able to export more intermediary goods, and Vietnam will be able to attract more foreign investment.
On December 11, President Park held a series of bilateral talks with the leaders of Myanmar, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines. The President wrapped up the ASEAN-Korea Commemorative Summit schedule with a meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on December 13. The main topics discussed at the respective meetings were economic cooperation, developmental cooperation, and peace on the Korean Peninsula.