(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with summit results; CHANGES headline)
By Lee Chi-dong
SEOUL, July 15 (Yonhap) -- The presidents of South Korea and Israel agreed Monday to push for an early deal in talks on a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA).
The consensus came at a Cheong Wa Dae summit between Moon Jae-in and Reuven Rivlin.
They noted that two-way trade hit an all-time high of US$2.7 billion last year amid a steady increase in volume.
They agreed on the need to strike an FTA deal as early as possible for "optimal win-win cooperation" to capitalize on the mutually beneficial business structures of the two countries, Cheong Wa Dae said.
The two sides began FTA talks in May 2015 and have had several rounds of negotiations. South Korea mainly exports vehicles, wireless communication devices and synthetic resins to Israel. Among import items are chipmaking equipment and applied electronics goods.
Moon expressed hope that Israel will share its experience in promoting high-tech startups, as they agreed to foster substantive partnerships in such sectors as the hydrogen economy, artificial intelligence, autonomous cars and 5G networks.
They pointed out the importance of expanding people-to-people exchanges, especially among college students and academics.
Moon briefed Rivlin on recent Korean Peninsula security conditions including his three-way gathering with U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on June 30.
He requested Jerusalem's continued support for the Korea peace process, to which Rivlin reaffirmed his country's commitment.
Cheong Wa Dae did not reveal whether the issue of sanctions against Iran was discussed in their talks.
On the occasion of the summit, South Korea and Israel signed two accords aimed at promoting ties on higher education and hydrogen energy.
Rivlin arrived in Seoul on Sunday for a five-day stay. He is the first Israeli president to visit South Korea in nine years.
On Sunday night, he visited the Lotte World Tower in eastern Seoul, according to Lotte officials.
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