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Subject Korea, India to upgrade bilateral free trade deal
Name   관리자 Hit 2660






President Park Geun-hye chats with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Cheong Wa Dae before a summit, Monday. / Yonhap

By Kang Seung-woo



Korea and India agreed Monday to review their free trade pact, better known as the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), after their leaders upgraded bilateral relations to a "special strategic partnership."

President Park Geun-hye held a summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Cheong Wa Dae and held substantive discussions in a wide range of areas, including foreign affairs, national security and defense, and their economies and trade.

"I expect today's summit to set a major milestone in strengthening relations and cooperation between Korea and India," President Park said during the summit.

Their meeting comes after Park made a state visit to India in January 2014 to promote economic relations with the world's second-most populous nation, whose economy has made great leaps forward over the past years.

Modi arrived here earlier in the day for his state visit ― the first to Korea since he took office in May last year. During his two-day stay, Modi will also meet top CEOs of Korean companies, including Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung Mong-koo, Samsung Electronics mobile chief Shin Jong-kyun and POSCO Chairman Kwon Oh-jun.

The Indian premier views Korea an important partner for his economic development drive, citing India's interest in Korea's shipbuilding, electronics and machinery industries, according to Park's office.

"The leaders welcomed commencement of negotiations to amend the India-Korea CEPA by June 2016, with a view to achieving a qualitative and quantitative trade increase," said a joint statement, issued after the summit.

It added: "They directed their respective officials to undertake in-depth consultations to leverage fully the potential of the CEPA."

The CEPA between Seoul and New Delhi was signed in 2009 and took effect in January 2010, but Korea has called for upgrading the deal in an effort to more widely open the massive Indian market of 1.2 billion people to Korean firms.

The bilateral CEPA calls on India to eliminate or cut tariffs on 85 percent of imports from Korea based on transaction value and items. Korea slashes or removes tariffs on 93 percent of imports from India on the basis of items and 90 percent on the basis of customs value.

However, India had been reluctant to do so, due mainly to concerns that its trade deficit could grow.

Along with the planned CEPA revision, Korea's finance ministry and the Export-Import Bank of Korea will provide $10 billion for mutual cooperation in infrastructure projects in priority sectors, including smart cities, railways, power generation and transmission.

In order to substantiate the special strategic partnership, the two sides agreed to hold annual summits; annual joint commissions headed by their foreign ministers; and establish a joint vice ministerial level defense and foreign affairs dialogue in a"2+2" format.

At the same time, they expressed concern over the development of North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, which are in violation of its international obligations and commitments.

"They urged the North to fully comply with all of its international obligations, including those under the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions, and to fulfill its commitments under the 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks," the statement said.

"Prime Minister Modi expressed support for President Park's efforts to build trust on the Korean Peninsula and to lay the groundwork for peaceful unification."

Park and Modi also observed the signing of two agreements and five memorandums of understanding on the sidelines of the summit.



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