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S. Korea seeking to explore new markets, revive exports

All News 15:30 January 28, 2016

By Kim Boram

SEJONG, Jan. 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korea plans to ramp up efforts to explore untapped overseas markets such as Iran and Cuba and boosting its exports this year in the face of a slowdown in China and fast-falling oil prices, the finance ministry said Thursday.

In its first meeting of foreign economy-related ministers led by Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Yoo Il-ho, the government outlined the 2016 economic plan for overseas trade strategies.

The plan calls for expanding economic cooperation with Iran who has newly entered the world economy after the lifting of economic sanctions. It also calls for forging diplomatic ties with Western countries as the country needs wider markets to export its products amid a Chinese slowdown and a slump in oil-rich emerging countries.

South Korea's outbound shipments plunged nearly 8 percent in 2015, with their monthly figure posting minus growth in every 12 month.

Following a landmark nuclear accord that lifted international sanctions on the oil-rich country, Iran has emerged as the most lucrative country in the world. Iran has the world's fourth-largest known crude oil deposits and ranks No. 1 in terms of natural gas reserves.

The ministry said South Korea is moving swiftly to grab first-movers' opportunities in the once-reclusive Mideast nation.

A Seoul-Tehran economic meeting will be held in February to discuss various issues including Iranian gas and oil field development projects, iron mill construction projects, and financial and healthcare cooperative plans, according to the finance ministry.

In the first 11 months of last year, bilateral trade between Seoul and Tehran came to US$6 billion, compared to $17 billion in 2011, according to separate government data.

The South Korea government is also paying attention to Cuba which started to open its market since it established diplomatic relations with the United States.

It said it will form an economic cooperation committee to help local companies expand into the untouched nation and send a business delegation to the trade show to be held in November in Havana, Cuba.

Other efforts this year include reaching open trade pacts with partners in the Latin America and Central Asia, and capitalizing on free trade agreements it has signed with countries such as China.

It will also map out plans to participate in other multinational trade blocs including the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal, which would create the world's largest trading bloc, accounting for about 40 percent of global gross domestic product.

Besides these efforts to boost trade, the ministry said it will strengthen itself to become stronger and better insulated to cope with any external shocks.

It has drawn out contingency plans to respond to a sudden change in Asian emerging nations and oil exporting countries to minimize financial jitters and market instability, added the ministry.


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