Myanmar and South Korea seek free trade boost

Amid declining trade between Myanmar and South Korea, officials from both countries say the completion of a free trade agreement should be a focus between the two nations.

A fisherman loads his daily catch onto the back of a cart. Officials say that fish products have the potential to help boost trade to South Korea. Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw / The Myanmar TimesA fisherman loads his daily catch onto the back of a cart. Officials say that fish products have the potential to help boost trade to South Korea. Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw / The Myanmar Times

Speaking at a seminar to discuss trade between the two nations in Nay Pyi Taw on October 12, Union Commerce Minister U Than Myint said that a recent drop-off in trade meant more needed to be done on both sides to strengthen the commerce relationship.

“It means we still need to put more effort in promoting bilateral trade and we also need to prepare for the establishment of an FTA,” he said.

U Than Myint said that South Korea was Myanmar’s eighth-largest trading partner. He said that bilateral trade with South Korea was valued at US$452 million in the 2010-11 financial year. This rose to $1.57 billion, he added, in the following financial year, but then fell again by the 2015-16 financial year to $656 million after “South Korea cut Myanmar’s exports”.

U Than Myint did not say why the “cut” had occurred. But traditionally, Myanmar exports agricultural, fish, forestry and mineral products to South Korea, he added.

Jointly hosted by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and the Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency, officials at the event said the KOICA-backed master plan, which was initiated in May 2015 and has cost $3 milion to develop, is now finalised and aims to boost bilateral trade through reducing tariffs and red tape. The plan also aims to develop more value-added production in the country with South Korea providing technical assistance to Myanmar.

“The master plan also creates opportunities through which we can attract more South Korean investments,” said U Htein Lin, a director at the Ministry of Commerce.

Of the key sectors the government is seeking to promote, Korea has suggested that Myanmar’s gems and jewellery and agricultural sectors show export potential for a South Korean market, he said, adding there was an opportunity to turn many local raw materials into finished products for export.
Source: The Myanmar Times