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South Korean envoy says, 'Negotiations on CEPA after elections', SK President Yoon Suk Yeol may visit India this year

By Priti Prakash | PUBLISHED: 29, Feb 2024, 16:57 pm IST | UPDATED: 10, Apr 2024, 11:16 am IST

South Korean envoy says, 'Negotiations on CEPA after elections', SK President Yoon Suk Yeol may visit India this year

New Delhi:
On the occasion of 50 years of India South Korea diplomatic relations, talking to reporters in New Delhi, South Korean Envoy Chang Jae-bok said that India and South Korea are hopeful of concluding ongoing negotiations to upgrade the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) existing between the two countries. President of South Korea Yoon Suk Yeol may likely visit India this year, Jae-bok said.

“During the last round of talks on CEPA upgrade held in January in Delhi, negotiators on both sides have committed to conclude talks within this year. Possibly before the visit by our President, we hope to conclude the negotiations. So each side will present concessions to the other side and then hopefully we will reach a compromise," Chang Jae-bok told reporters.

Ahead of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s visit to Seoul next month, on the possible timing of President Yoon’s state visit, the South Korean Ambassador to India said, “We will have an in-depth discussion on it after the election, but hopefully the visit will happen within this year.” "Hopefully, before the possible bilateral visit by our President – probably after the elections in India and in Korea – we hope to conclude the negotiations," the ambassador added.

National elections in India will likely be held in April-May. Meanwhile, elections in South Korea are scheduled to be held on April 10.

CEPA was made in 2009 and became effective in 2010. Negotiations between the Ministry of Commerce of Korea and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of India, for an upgraded CEPA were held in 2016 and 2017 but halted during the pandemic.

On the ease of doing business and on how to address import/export imbalances, Ambassador acknowledged that the issue is being discussed and since any FTA negotiations are complex in nature because they involve various interest groups from both sides. He also stated that it is very challenging but both governments should work harder to accommodate domestic demands while achieving a more balanced outcome between the two sides.

He said the South Korean President had raised the issue of more friendly conditions and doing business in India during the bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “We hope India will respond positively,” Chang remarked.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is scheduled to pay bilateral visits to South Korea and Japan from March 5-8. In Seoul on March 5 and 6, he will co-chair the 10th India-Republic of Korea Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) with his counterpart Cho Tae-yul. During the visit, Jaishankar is also expected to meet Korean dignitaries, heads of think tanks and members of the Indian community.

Ambassador Chang said there will be discussions on defence, defence production and also economic cooperation along with regional and global issues.

On the 2+2 dialogue at the Vice Minister level that has been at the planning stage for long, Chang said that efforts are still on. Talks may first start at the Joint Secretary level and then upgrade to the Vice Minister level, he added.

On the war in Ukraine, Chang said that Korea has been calling for an immediate end to the war as Russia’s actions are in violation of international law. He added, “It is also important to engage Russia constructively to end the war.”

On possible civil-nuclear cooperation between the two countries, the envoy said that Korea is interested in small modular reactors (SMR). Exchanges between experts should be done and there could be concrete results in the future, he stated.

South Korea has recently embarked on a space programme and is keen on cooperation with India. “We are going to launch Korea space administration very soon and we are looking to cooperate with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in low orbit satellites,” he said.
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