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(LEAD) Park proposes holding ASEM economic ministers' meeting in S. Korea next year

All News 23:12 July 15, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with more info in 6th para)
By Song Sang-ho

ULAANBAATAR, July 15 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye on Friday proposed resuming the long-stalled meeting of economic ministers from Asia and Europe in South Korea next year, calling on the two regions to join forces to promote open and free trade.

Speaking at the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit, Park also stressed the need for the two regions' consultative bloc to play a central role in tackling regional and global challenges including terrorism, violent extremism, climate change and North Korea's nuclear threats.

"I hope the ASEM summit this time will provide an impetus to the spread of free trade in the region, and for inclusive growth and creative innovation," Park said as a lead speaker at the first session of the two-day summit in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar.

"To discuss more concrete action plans, I propose holding the ASEM economic ministers' meeting in South Korea next year."

The economic ministers' meeting has not been held since the last one in China in 2003. After the 2003 gathering, the ASEM members sought to hold another session later. But the move floundered amid a spat among ASEM members over Myanmar's human rights issue.

Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang and Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith expressed their support for her proposal to resume the ASEM economic ministers' meeting.

Expressing her concerns over the emergence of trade protectionism, Park underscored that the ASEM should explore ways to further strengthen the foundation of free trade in the world and address economic gaps among nations.

"Uncertainties in the environment of the global economy are increasing. But we should not forget the historical lesson that the growth of the world economy has come in tandem with the spread of free trade," she said.

"Free trade has given opportunities for growth to many emerging economies, and has contributed to addressing development gaps among nations," she added.

Since Britain's decision last month to exit the European Union that fueled uncertainties over the global economy, the president has repeatedly warned against "trade protectionism and isolationism."

Outlining her view for the future direction of the ASEM, Park said that the ASEM should further strengthen its role to enhance solidarity between Asia and Europe through efforts to strengthen "connectivity" among nations in the regions.

To enhance the connectivity, Seoul has been pushing for the so-called Eurasia Initiative, she explained. The initiative seeks to build a single, united Eurasia through increased links in transport, infrastructure, IT and other sectors.

"We are also striving to enhance the synergic effect with the initiatives similar (to Eurasia Initiative), which have been carried out by other nations such as Mongolia, China and Russia," she said.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
(END)

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