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Moon leaves for UAE for economic diplomacy on Middle East swing

All News 12:44 January 15, 2022

SEOUL, Jan. 15 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in left for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Saturday for talks with UAE leaders as South Korea seeks to explore business opportunities with the Middle East nation in the fields of hydrogen, space and other sectors.

On Sunday, Moon will attend a bilateral business roundtable on cooperation in the hydrogen industry, during which he plans to ask the UAE to help Korean firms make inroads into the UAE's hydrogen industry.

Also scheduled for Sunday are a visit to a "Day of Korea" ceremony at the Expo 2020 Dubai and a meeting with the country's Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum

During the talks, Moon and the UAE prime minister plan to discuss ways to expand cooperation in infrastructure, efforts to tackle climate change, and space. The two leaders will also discuss Korea's bid to host the 2030 Expo.

In Dubai, Moon will step up South Korea's campaign to host the Expo at the nation's southeastern port city of Busan in 2030.

The following day, Moon plans to deliver a keynote address on carbon neutrality at the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week and hold a summit meeting with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan on ways to deepen bilateral cooperation over climate change, national security and defense, and public health.

In October last year, South Korea and the UAE announced that they will launch official talks toward a bilateral free trade agreement. The UAE is Korea's top export market in the Middle East and its biggest partner in human resource exchanges in the region.

President Moon Jae-in (C) presides over a meeting of his senior secretaries at the presidential office in Seoul on Jan. 10, 2022. (Yonhap)

President Moon Jae-in (C) presides over a meeting of his senior secretaries at the presidential office in Seoul on Jan. 10, 2022. (Yonhap)

Korea has previously said it is pushing to sell its mid-range surface-to-air missiles known as M-SAM to the UAE.

The UAE is the first leg of Moon's three-nation trip to the Middle East that will also take him to Saudi Arabia as well as Egypt.

Moon will visit Riyadh on Tuesday and hold talks with Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Moon and the crown prince are expected to discuss how to expand bilateral cooperation in public health, artificial intelligence, hydrogen and education, while bolstering cooperation in energy, infrastructure and construction.

After holding talks with the crown prince, Moon will attend a business forum and meet Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Aramco, the kingdom's state oil giant. The chairman also heads Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, known as the PIF.

On Wednesday, Moon plans to hold a meeting with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary-General Nayef bin Falah Al-Hajraf. During the meeting, they plan to announce the resumption of negotiations for a free trade agreement.

Korea and the GCC had agreed to push for a free trade deal in 2007 and had three rounds of talks until 2008, but the negotiations have since stalled after the council announced the suspension in 2010.

Trade volume between the two came to US$46.6 billion in 2020. The GCC, which has six member nations -- the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait, supplies 68 percent of South Korea's crude oil imports.

On the last leg of the trip, Moon will leave for Cairo on Wednesday evening.

Moon will hold summit talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Thursday to further develop the comprehensive cooperative partnership between the two countries.

Moon and the Egyptian president are expected to agree on a joint feasibility study to forge a bilateral free trade deal, which would be Korea's first free trade agreement on the African continent if sealed.

In Cairo, Moon will also attend a business forum where companies in the two nations plan to discuss how to strengthen cooperation in electric cars, information technology and transportation.

Moon will leave Cairo on Friday afternoon and return home on Jan. 22.


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