Lee urges on Mexico trade pact
MEXICO CITY - President Lee Myung-bak assured Mexican firms Wednesday that a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries will not undermine their domestic sales.
Citing experts’ study, Lee stressed Korean products imported under the accord will compete largely with other foreign goods.
The FTA will “rather help increase Mexico’s exports to Korea,” as the demand for them is growing in Korea, Lee said in an interview with El Universal, a major Mexican daily, that was published as he launched a three-day state visit here.
In his summit with Mexican President Felipe Calderon slated for Thursday, Lee is expected to focus on reviving bilateral FTA negotiations, which started in 2007 but came to a halt a year later amid worries in Mexican business circles.
Mexico is Korea’s largest trading partner in the region. Their two-way trade volume totaled $8.1 billion in 2009.
More than 1,400 Korean firms operate in Mexico, mostly in the manufacture of electronics goods, steels and automobile parts, employing about 40,000 local workers.
Korea regards Mexico as an advanced base for its inroads into Central and South America.
Lee said the two countries have great potential for mutually beneficial cooperation in various sectors.
“The two nations can be strategically important partners to provide a gateway for their advance into northeast Asia and North America, respectively,” he said.
Lee also offered a closer partnership on the global stage.
Mexico is a major player at the UN, the G-20 and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, and has cooperated closely on global issues such as climate change and disarmament. Mexico is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.
On June 4, the Korean government sent a letter to Mexico’s ambassador to the UN asking the council to take up the issue of North Korea’s recent naval attack on a South Korean warship. Mexico is chairing the Security Council for the month of June.
Officials said Lee expects Mexico’s continued support for Seoul’s campaign to punish Pyongyang for the March 26 torpedo attack that led to the sinking of a 1,200-ton warship and the deaths of 46 sailors.
“President Lee will raise the Cheonan issue at the summit with President Calderon and ask for support,” a Blue House official said.
Lee visited a national cemetery to pay homage to fallen Mexican patriots and was to meet a group of South Korean residents later in the day.
Lee is also scheduled to hold a meeting with Mexican business leaders Thursday.
Mexico is the third and last leg of his week-long trip that took him to Canada and Panama. Lee is to return to Seoul on Saturday.