Korea committed to meet global trade standards
Korea is committed to meeting global standards and responding to the trend of multilateral trade and regionalization of economies, the country's top trade policymaker said yesterday.
"In this regard, related laws will be revised and institutions adapted so they will come in line with global standards," Lee Hee-beom, the minister of commerce, industry and energy, said at a meeting hosted by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea.
The reform falls under the ministry's 2005 policy vision called "Growing Together to Make Korea an Advanced Industrial Power."
In an era of free-trade pacts, Korea is poised to take part in negotiations related to the World Trade Organization and the Doha Development Agenda, and pursue free-trade agreements.
"With expanding two-way trade and investment, today's Korea-EU ties are quickly progressing into a mutually beneficial relationship," said Lee.
Minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy Lee Hee-beom (center) meets members of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea yesterday. [The Korea Herald]
Korea's trade with members of the European Union totaled $32.9 billion in 1999 but expanded to $56.1 billion last year. The EU's investment in Korea totaled $30.8 billion last year, accounting for 30 percent of the accumulated foreign investment amounting to $103.8 billion.
Lee also stressed that the government will promote a business-friendly environment for foreign investors to bring the country up to global trading status.
"The ministry will not withhold from improving the business climate and living conditions of the foreign investment community, or from making Korea a more attractive investment destination," Lee said.
He highlighted that by the end of 2004, 48 improvement measures were implemented from a list of 151 that have so far been identified. The ministry this year aims to identify and tackle another 30 areas that need improvement.
To facilitate investment, Lee said that investment incentives such as rent-free industrial sites and tax breaks will be expanded.
"Other incentives will be made available to an extent that is in proportion to an investment's contribution to the economy," he added.
The government plans to set aside 65.5 billion won to designate foreign investment zones and tax incentives will be expanded for companies locating in the complex-style zones.
The minister also noted that the government will aim to resolve labor issues, citing them as major impediments to Korea's investment environment.
"The government has been fostering cooperative labor relations that conform with global standards through dialogue and compromise," Lee told the group of EU business leaders.
Last year, while the number of labor disputes increased, the number of work days lost was down by 8.1 percent compared with 2003. This proves that labor relations are gradually improving with cooperation, Lee said.