MULTAN

Korean Ambassador in Pakistan Dr Song Jong-Hwan has said that his country is keen to strengthen trade ties with Pakistan, regretting that the bilateral trade has declined by almost 34 pc in the last three years.

Addressing the member of Multan Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MCCI) here on Monday, he added that the feasibility study of free trade agreement (FTA) is underway and both the countries expect big jump in bilateral trade once the FTA was signed.

He said that the study would be completed by end of June this year. He pointed out that the trade volume between Pakistan and Korea was around $1.6 billion in 2012 but it dropped to $1.2 billion now. He said that Korea was fully aware of the problems faced by the Pakistan regarding business and his country would assist Pakistan to enhance trade between the two friend countries.

He said his country has been investing in Pakistan and more than 20 companies are working in different sectors. He also stressed the need of frequent exchange of trade delegation and ensured his full cooperation in this regard.

Dr Song said Pakistan is a dynamic country, having all seasons, sea ports, all types of fruits and huge workforce, however there is a need to improve law and order situation in the country to attract the foreign investment. He said that both Pakistan and Korea are enjoying cordial diplomatic and trade relations and there is a great scope to further strengthen the bilateral relations in the various fields. Pakistan has enormous business potential but due to security concerns the desire results have not been achieved yet, he added.

“The government of Pakistan has taken some security measures and the Republic of Korea supports its efforts to restore peace in the country. I suggest the civil society and general public of Pakistan should cooperate with the government in the war against terror,” he said.

“Security and energy crisis are two main issues in Pakistan at present. Sound political strategy followed by proper implementation is important for Pakistan’s development. Korea has deep-affiliation with Pakistan trace back to 4th century due to presence of Indus and Buddhist civilisations on this Land. The formal diplomatic relations were established in 1983. Since then, 33 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries have considerably moved forward on both economic and political fronts. Especially, 2014 is being evaluated an important year to enlarge our bilateral relations as the Speaker of the National Assembly of Korea visited end of January and then Prime Minister of Korea visited Islamabad in mid-April. This is first time that such senior dignitaries from Korea visited Pakistan,” he noted.

“Therefore, he said, “these visits are playing key role to turn the page and have given new momentum to our economic and trade relations as well as other walks of life like education, sports and culture etc. South Korea wants to improve trade ties with Pakistan and the establishment of an IT park in Islamabad, and some projects in Lahore and Karachi. It is step towards doing so,” Dr Song Jong-Hwan said.

South Korea will establish one of the biggest and most advanced IT parks in Islamabad in an area of about one million square feet, he said. The Exim Bank of Korea has agreed to provide $50 million for the establishment of the park and South Korean teams are expected to conduct a feasibility study with assistance from the Ministry of IT and Pakistan Software Exports Board (PSEB), he said.

It is expected that the IT park will attract international companies to develop software and hardware solutions and will also help boost the country’s IT exports.

“Establishing the park will promote small and medium enterprises as well,” Dr Song said. He said bilateral trade between the two countries has declined by almost 34 pc in the last three years and said this should be a cause for serious concern for both the sides.

He said the non-availability of trade-related information and a lack of understanding about the promising areas of cooperation were the major reasons for the low volume of trade between the countries. He said that there was a vast scope in Korea for Pakistani mangoes which possess a unique flavor and taste. He said that Korea had imported 14,000 tonnes of mangoes last year which might be increased to 24,000 tonnes this year but its transportation is so costly.

He also suggested Korean airlines operation in Pakistan bring two countries closer to each other. Later, he inaugurated a Painting Exhibition-2016 at MCCI organised by Artists Association of Punjab and Multan Chamber.