(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) The two-way trade between the UAE and South Korea is picking up steam rapidly this year, surpassing last year's figure of 20 billion at a time the UAE is gearing up to diversify its non-oil industrial sector, South Korean Minister of Strategy and Finance Bahk Jaewan said.
He pledged to reinforce cooperation in areas where South Korea's strength can be well-harmonised with the UAE's policy direction that is also aimed at bolstering a knowledge-based economy, expressing hope that increased trade opportunities in service and other industries, not just in resource-related industries.
"The UAE is South Korea's second-largest investment destination in the Middle East. South Korea's direct investment to the UAE stood at 1.24 billion as of 2011", Jaewan told the Emirates News Agency, or Wam. Excerpts of the interview:
What have you been discussing with the UAE Ministry of Economy?
South Korea's Ministry of Strategy and Finance and the UAE's Ministry of Economy have maintained bilateral cooperative ties since 2007 through the Joint Economic Committee Meeting. The Joint Committee is a high-level inter-governmental cooperative channel to discuss overall bilateral economic cooperation between the two nations.
Through the Committee, we have expanded the areas of cooperation to high value-added industries, such as finance, education, healthcare and medical sectors, from conventional ones like trade, investment, energy and construction.
At the Second Joint Committee Meeting held in 2010, we made a further progress, including our efforts to pursue the conclusion of an MoU for promoting cooperation in eight areas. Based on our mutual trust and strong willingness to work together, at the Third Joint Committee as well, we will discuss cooperative measures in a wider range of areas such as medical services, agriculture, environment and IT.
What is the outlook for trade and investment with the UAE this year?
The UAE is South Korea's important trading partner. It is our largest importer among GCC countries as well as the second largest oil exporter.
Bilateral trade which plummeted during the global financial crisis is showing a rapid recovery, surpassing 20 billion last year. Even though majority of the trading volume still come from crude oil, we expect that such dependence will steadily decline.
I also look forward to the UAE's active investments in South Korea.
Beyond energy, how is South Korea looking to expand other forms of trade with the UAE?
South Korea and the UAE share similarities. We have open economies, and also grew into major economies in the world in a short period. And as our economies are complementary, there are various areas where we can work together in the future.
For sustainable economic cooperation between the two nations, I think we should expand the areas of cooperation to added value-creating ones.
How do you see the role of Korea Exim Bank in financing trade and investment with the UAE and the rest of the GCC?
GCC countries, including the UAE, are projected to achieve even faster economic development on the back of high oil prices, and various infrastructure projects will be implemented down the road.
Accordingly, I think many South Korean companies with advanced technologies and price competitiveness will join in to win contracts for large scale projects by the GCC countries. Kexim serves as a primary window to provide funding for those projects such as through export credits. And it provides South Korean firms with financial advice and arrangement for winning overseas project deals.
What opportunities are there for South Korean firms in Abu Dhabi's 40 billion worth of infrastructure projects?
Rapidly increasing large scale project deals placed by Middle Eastern countries are being recognised in South Korea as the second Middle Eastern boom. Traditionally, infrastructure is one of our important areas of cooperation in that, for the UAE, it improves foundation for economic activities, and for South Korean construction companies, it provides opportunities to create profits.
To help South Korean companies advancing into overseas markets, the South Korean government for its part is providing various supporting measures, such as fostering professional skilled workforce and providing tax credits and financial support.
For this pipeline project in Abu Dhabi as well, I expect many South Korean firms with strong construction capability will join in the bidding. South Korean companies have been internationally recognised for their skills and diligence by winning various overseas contracts.