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(LEAD) S. Korea, Mexico to hold talks on free trade deal

All News 07:05 April 05, 2016

(ATTN: RECASTS throughout with results of summit)
By Kim Kwang-tae

MEXICO CITY, April 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and Mexico agreed Monday to hold working-level talks later this year on a free trade deal between the two sides, a move that underscored their commitment to further boosting their economic ties.

The agreement was reached at the summit meeting between South Korean President Park Geun-hye and her Mexican counterpart, Enrique Pena Nieto.

"I expect both sides to produce good fruits by coming up with creative ways at the working-level talks for a win-win," situation, Park said in a joint news conference with Pena Nieto. Park called the agreement to hold the working-level talks "meaningful."

The working-level talks are scheduled to take place between October and December, according to both sides.

The two sides agreed to discuss Mexico's support for South Korea in case Seoul joins the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a U.S.-led regional free trade agreement.

South Korea has expressed interest in joining the 12-nation free trade deal, which would create the world's largest trading bloc, accounting for about 40 percent of global gross domestic product. Mexico is one of the members.

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.

Park has 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.

Trade volume between the two countries stood at US$14.4 billion last year, up from $4.2 billion in 2005.

Park and Pena Nieto observed the signing of memorandums of understanding that Seoul say could help South Korean companies participate in infrastructure projects.

Mexico is pushing for projects worth $590 billion to modernize such sectors as energy, transport and water resources management.

Other MOUs include one on telemedicine that is designed to provide quality health care for those in hard-to-access areas and for the elderly by connecting patients to doctors using information technology, usually over the Internet.

Mexico, slightly less than three times the size of Texas, is interested in telemedicine as it suffers doctor shortages. Mexico had 2.2 doctors per 1,000 people in 2012, up from 1.6 doctors in 2000. Still, it remains below an average of 3.2 for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of 34 mostly rich nations.

Park and Pena Nieto also agreed that Mexico will address a row with Kia Motors Corp., South Korea's second-ranked carmaker, by forming a consultative body.

The body would be compromised of Kia Motors and Mexican federal government officials and representatives from the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon.

Kia Motors was promised, among other things, land for a plant free of charge and a five-year corporate tax exemption by the state of Nuevo Leon for its assembly plant -- which will have an annual capacity of 300,000 units. Kia has said it plans to begin producing vehicles there in May.

Still, the local government of Nuevo Leon has asked for renegotiations, citing its financial woes.

Earlier in the day, Park paid tribute to six Mexican cadets at a monument in Mexico City.

Park laid a wreath at the Heroic Cadets Memorial in Chapultepec Park, a monument that honors the six cadets who fought to the death in 1847 during the Mexican-American War.


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