By Kang Yoon-seung
SEOUL, Sept. 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Monday proposed a new pact on digital trade with Southeast Asia to cope with the changing global business environment and forge deeper economic ties with the region.
Trade Minister Yeo Han-koo held a virtual meeting of economic ministers with his ASEAN counterparts to share opinions on various issues, covering trade and the environment, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.
During the meeting, Yeo said South Korea wishes to carry out joint studies on launching a new pact on digital trade with ASEAN similar to the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA), which currently comprises Singapore, New Zealand and Chile.
South Korea recently officially declared its intention to join DEPA as well, in line with its efforts to broaden ties in areas beyond conventional free trade agreements, including digital identities, e-payments, data protection and cross-border data flows.
The two parties also vowed to maintain strong trade ties to overcome the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, and make joint efforts to cope with the rise of more contagious variants, including the delta strain.
The combined amount of trade between South Korea and the regional bloc reached US$92.5 billion over the first six months of 2021, up 18 percent from a year earlier, the ministry data showed.
South Korea and ASEAN plan to make efforts to implement the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in the near future. The mega trade pact, which accounts for one-third of the world's gross domestic product, was inked in November last year, with participants covering ASEAN, South Korea, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
Economic leaders of South Korea and ASEAN also agreed to cooperate in order to cope with climate change, while refraining from having environmental regulations emerge as new hurdles for free trade.
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