S. Korean president vows efforts to expand economic cooperation with Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday vowed efforts to boost his country's cooperation with Malaysia, one day after he and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad agreed to try to conclude a bilateral free trade agreement before the year's end.

The South Korean president stressed the need to expand the countries' cooperation into new areas, including ICT, in a South Korea-Malaysia business forum attended by some 500 business leaders from the two countries.

"Malaysia and South Korea are friends with a long history of exchanges that helped each other when they were in need. They are also very important economic partners that cannot do without the other," Moon told the forum.

"I now propose that we take another step forward from our existing cooperation and together open a new future," he added.

The South Korean president arrived in Malaysia on Tuesday for a three-day state visit.

Moon stressed the need to enhance the countries' cooperation in conventional industrial sectors, such as the auto industry, but to also create new business opportunities that will help prepare both countries for the fourth industrial revolution.

"Malaysia is the only automaking nation among the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) countries," he noted.

"I wish the countries' joint research of electric vehicles will make progress. When Malaysia's national policy on the auto industry is combined with South Korea's advanced electric vehicle and battery technologies, they may enjoy a great synergy," he said.

Moon reiterated his call for efforts to create a new business model combining South Korea's "hallyu," the Korean Wave, with Malaysia's halal industry.

"Malaysia is without doubt a global leader in the halal industry. About 25 percent of the global population are Muslims, and the global halal market has breached the US$2 trillion mark," President Moon said.

Moon earlier highlighted the possibility of such cooperation in a business fair held Tuesday to introduce some 150 halal-certified, hallyu-themed South Korean products that included food products and cosmetics, as well as hallyu content.

"Should South Korea's hallyu be combined with Malaysia's halal, they may be able to jointly make way into the vast global market with a great competitiveness," he said.

Moon also renewed his call for efforts to increase trade and investment between the countries.

In their summit held Wednesday, Moon and Mahathir agreed to launch negotiations for a South Korea-Malaysia FTA and to have the negotiations concluded before the year's end.

"If the bilateral FTA can be signed quickly, it will be a chance to greatly improve trade cooperation between the two countries," he told the business forum.

Trade between the two countries has already been on the rise, apparently helped by South Korea's multilateral FTA with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that went into effect in 2007.

Bilateral trade between South Korea and Malaysia jumped nearly 15 percent to $19.2 billion last year from about $16.7 billion the year before.

Malaysia is currently South Korea's 14th-largest trading partner in the world.

Source: Yonhap news Agency

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