By Kang Yoon-seung
SEOUL, May 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will continue to expand ties with major partners around the globe, as the country braces for the looming "economic nationalism" in the face of the new coronavirus pandemic, the country's top trade official said Wednesday.
"The COVID-19 pandemic will not only bring a wide array of changes to countries' socio-economic structures but also to global trade regimes," Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee said during a meeting with business officials, including Samsung Electronics Co. and Hyundai Motor Co.
Yoo stressed that South Korea's major trade partners will lean further toward protectionism as they strive to recover from the economic aftermath of the new coronavirus pandemic.
"Countries will expand their regulations on trade and investment in various fields, including the pharmaceutical and foodstuff industries, on the grounds of national security," Yoo said.
But the country will work closely with key partners to normalize the exchange of goods and travel of essential workforces while drawing up a contingency plan on international trade and investment in case of another crisis like the latest pandemic.
Earlier this month, Seoul also adopted a joint statement on allowing essential travel during the COVID-19 pandemic with Singapore, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
South Korea pledged to make efforts to promptly cope with the escalating tension between the United States and China, the two most important trade partners of Asia's No. 4 economy as well.
The world's top two economies, which managed to reach the so-called phase-one trade deal after being at loggerheads throughout last year, are thrown into yet another round of tension as U.S. President Donald Trump held Beijing responsible for the global new coronavirus pandemic.
South Korea saw its outbound shipments plunge 24.3 percent last month on-year.
Over the first 10 days of this month, outbound shipments nearly halved from a year earlier.
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