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Lee Arrives in Cambodia for Regional Cooperation Summits
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South Korean President Lee Myung-bak arrived in Cambodia on Sunday for a series of international summits, including one involving the newly re-elected U.S. president, Barack Obama, about freer trade and other cooperation issues in the region.

The three-day visit to Phnom Penh is part of Lee's two-nation trip that will also take him to the United Arab Emirates for talks expected to focus on increasing atomic power and other energy and economic cooperation between the two countries.


On Monday and Tuesday, Lee will attend a trio of annual meetings: a summit with the 10 member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); a meeting between ASEAN and South Korea, China and Japan; and a meeting of the East Asia Summit (EAS) forum.

Both Lee and Obama are scheduled to attend the 18-nation EAS forum. It will be their first meeting since the American president won re-election, though it is unclear whether they will be able to find time for a separate bilateral meeting because of tight schedules, officials said.

The most concrete outcome from the series of summits is expected to be a declaration among 16 of the 18 EAS member countries to launch free trade negotiations to forge what is dubbed the "Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership" or RCEP.

The EAS forum consists of the 10 ASEAN states, South Korea, China, Japan, the United States, Russia, Australia, India, and New Zealand. All but the U.S. and Russia are committed to attending the negotiations aimed mainly at lowering barriers to trade and promoting freer flow of goods and services.

The 16 countries have a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of US$19.7 trillion won, and their trade volume reaches $10.1 trillion with their combined population amounting to some 3.4 billion, according to the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP).

 The regional free trade pact would bring about up to $19.46 billion worth of economic benefits to South Korea, and raise the country's economic growth by 1.76 percent in 10 years after the deal takes effect. The projection is based on the assumption that tariffs on all products, excluding rice, are removed.

Lee's summit with ASEAN is expected to center on reviewing recent progress in relations between the two sides, such as the conclusion of a free trade deal and the 2010 establishment of a strategic partnership, while discussing ways to further deepen the ties, officials said.

ASEAN has emerged as an increasingly important region to South Korea, with a combined population of 600 million and the GDP totaling $2.15 trillion, officials said. The 10-nation region is South Korea's second-largest trade and investment partner, with two-way trade volume amounting to $124.9 billion last year.

South Korea also won construction orders worth $12.8 billion from ASEAN last year. The number of visitors between the two sides has also been on the rise, with more than 5 million people visiting the other side last year, officials said.

"A lot of cooperation is under way between South Korea and ASEAN. The 10 ASEAN nations represent the No. 2 export market for us after China," Lee said during a meeting with South Korean residents in Cambodia.

Despite global economic difficulties, ASEAN countries are relatively faring well, compared with other nations, Lee said, adding that South Korea's trade with ASEAN broke the US$100 billion mark last year and the region is becoming increasingly important for Korea.


The ASEAN plus three summit, involving ASEAN nations plus South Korea, China and Japan, is expected to discuss expanding the volume of a regional currency swap agreement, known as the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization, to strengthen the regional financial safety net.

Other topics include adopting a new road map for the Asian Bond Markets Initiative and ensuring the implementation of the "ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve," a food stock formed with contributions from the members to be used when the supply becomes unstable.

While in Cambodia, Lee also plans to hold a bilateral meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

On Tuesday, Lee will head to Abu Dhabi of the United Arab Emirates for summit talks with President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan about increasing cooperation in various areas, especially atomic power plants, energy, trade and investment, and science and technology.

Source Text


Source: Yonhap News (Nov. 18, 2012)

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