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(LEAD) Park calls for free trade deal with Mexico

All News 02:12 April 04, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with Park's visit to museum)
By Kim Kwang-tae

MEXICO CITY, April 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye has called for a free trade deal with Mexico in Seoul's latest push to make inroads into the emerging market, saying it would create a win-win situation for the two countries.

South Korea and Mexico launched free trade talks in 2007, but the negotiations have been stalled since 2008 due to strong opposition from the Mexican automobile industry.

Last year, South Korea asked Mexico to resume talks on a bilateral free trade agreement.

"I think it's meaningful for South Korea and Mexico to sign a free trade agreement to expand trade and investment and strengthen economic cooperation," Park said in an interview with Mexico's major daily El Universal published on Sunday.

Park said a free trade deal, if signed, could create a win-win situation, as it could open a new gateway in Northeast Asia for Mexico, while South Korea can expand its access to North, Central and South America.

Mexico has become South Korea's largest trading partner in Central and South America.

Bilateral trade volume between the two countries stood at US$14.4 billion last year, with South Korea's exports amounting to $10.8 billion and imports totaling $3.4 billion.

Park said the two countries can expand new business opportunities in energy and information and communication technology beyond the manufacturing sector.

She also called for strengthened cooperation between the sides to address concerns of South Korean investors, including Kia Motors Corp., South Korea's second-ranked carmaker.

Kia Motors has almost completed its plant in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon and is scheduled to start operations in May.

Kia Motors was promised, among other things, a free-of-charge land site for the plant and five-year corporate tax exemption.

Still, the local government of Nuevo Leon has asked for renegotiations with Kia Motors, raising the alarm that Kia Motors might not be able to start operations as scheduled.

Last month, Kia Motors said that there will be no delays in the planned launch of its plant.

Park praised Mexico for detaining a blacklisted North Korean freighter, calling it meaningful progress in the enforcement of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

The Mu Du Bong and its 33 North Korean crewmembers have been staying in Mexico since July 2014 when the 6,700-ton freighter ran aground on a reef off Tuxpan in the Mexican state of Veracruz.

Mexico detained the ship after identifying it as belonging to the Ocean Maritime Management Company, which was blacklisted by the U.N. Security Council for illegally shipping arms, including two MiG-21 jet fighters, on another vessel in 2013.

Park also vowed to bring about changes in North Korea through pressure and strict enforcement of the toughest sanctions imposed on North Korea over its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 and long-range rocket launch on Feb. 7.

Also Sunday, Park visited the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City on the first full day of her four-day trip to Mexico.

The museum houses about 600,000 collections, including artifacts from the Aztec and Mayan civilizations before their conquest by the Spanish.


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