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(3rd LD) S. Korea, France vow to expand trade, investment

All Headlines 18:10 July 25, 2013

(ATTN: UPDATES with briefing in last 3 paras)

SEOUL, July 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and France agreed Thursday to ramp up efforts to boost bilateral trade and investment by building a close cooperative network, Seoul officials said.

The agreement came at a meeting between South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won and his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault, according to Seoul's Prime Minister's Office.

Ayrault, along with his large delegation involving four ministers and six lawmakers, is in Seoul for a single-day visit here to meet with Chung and President Park Geun-hye.

During the meeting, the officials agreed to expand bilateral trade and investment by maximizing the Korea-European Union free trade agreement (FTA) and to explore a new growth engine in such fields as information technology and robot industries, according to the office.

Chung proposed continued cooperation to export South Korea's first homegrown utility helicopter Surion to third countries. French firm Eurocopter helped develop it.

In response, Ayrault expressed his hope for more investment by South Korean firms in his country and vowed efforts to improve France's investment climate, according to Chung's office.

The Korea-EU FTA went into effect in July 2011. In the first 12 months since its implementation, foreign direct investment from EU countries in South Korea surged 14.3 percent on-year to US$4.39 billion, according to government data.

As of the end of 2012, South Korea's exports to France reached $2.6 billion, with its cumulative imports from the European country standing at $4.92 billion, according to the Korea International Trade Association.

The two prime ministers also agreed upon continued coordination in their policy toward North Korea.

"Today's meeting holds significance as Ayrault's trip marks the first senior-level exchanges between Seoul and Paris, and the first high-level visit to South Korea from Europe since Park's inauguration in February," Chung's office said. "It will pave the way for the two countries to build a close cooperative network."

Later in the day, Ayrault paid a visit to President Park Geun-hye.

"France dispatched a lot of troops to help safeguard freedom of South Korea during the Korean War. I am deeply grateful for that," Park said. "The friendly relations between the two countries are based on such devotion and sacrifices of French troops, and I hope the relations will move firmly forward in the future."

Ayrault said French President Francois Hollande asked him to send his regards to Park.

Park also expressed gratitude to France for supporting Seoul's position on the international standoff over North Korea's nuclear program. She also said France's stern approach to the nuclear problem while continuing humanitarian assistance to the impoverished North is in line with her policy, according to spokeswoman Kim Haing.

Ayrault said France will take the lead in international efforts to resolve the nuclear issue. He also expressed hope for strengthening cooperation with South Korea in electronics, defense, climate change and other areas, according to Kim.

Park said she hopes to work closely together with France in promoting peaceful use of atomic energy and nuclear safety. Ayrault said his country is willing for such cooperation, according to the spokeswoman.


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