Korea moves to strengthen economic partnership with Italy

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Korea moves to strengthen economic partnership with Italy

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Invest Korea CEO Kim Yong-kook, front left, and Simest CEO Andrea Novelli, front right, pose after signing a new collaboration agreement. In the back row, from left to right, is Kotra CEO Kim Jae-hong, Italian Vice Foreign Minister Benedetto Della Vedova, Korean Vice Trade Minister Woo Tae-hee and Italian Trade Agency President Riccardo Monti. [KOREA TRADE-INVESTMENT PROMOTION AGENCY]

Korea and Italy have taken the first steps toward expanding their investment cooperation and jointly exploring third markets such as Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia.

The trade ministries and private sector business lobby groups of the two countries reached an agreement at the Korea-Italy Business Forum on Wednesday. The delegation visited Korea in response to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy’s request last year for Italy to visit local companies to expand business cooperation.

“The Korean government welcomes the Italian delegation and the two countries’ economic ties, which gained momentum after President Park Geun-hye visited Rome in October 2014 to celebrate the 130th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations,” Vice Trade Minister Woo Tae-hee said at the business forum held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul. “I hope the two countries expand business partnerships today to each country’s flagship areas like auto parts, fashion, cosmetics and bio.”

The Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (Kotra) reached a memorandum of understanding with its Italian counterpart, the Societa Italiana per le Imprese all’Estero (Simest), to start collaborating in exchanging investment and financing opportunities. The deal also calls on Simest to help in finding suitable business partners when Korean companies enter Italy.

The Korean private sector business associations, including the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) and the Korea-Italy Economic Cooperation Committee, invited the Italian delegation to a luncheon meeting at the FKI headquarters in Yeouido, southwestern Seoul, to discuss business possibilities to jointly explore in other European and Asian nations.

Licia Mattioli, president and member of the technical committee for internationalization and foreign investors at Confindustria, a business lobby group, named fashion, engineering, procurement and construction as the four areas with potential.

The two parties examined the possibility of entering these markets via infrastructure construction projects funded by the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and projects in Eastern European countries that are funded by the EU.

Italy is strong in auto parts, cold chain logistics and fashion, but it is a small investor in Korea.

As repercussions of the 2010 economic crisis in Southeastern Europe have continued, the inbound investment from Rome to Seoul has declined to post only $30.5 million last year, one-fourth of the $116.8 million in 2013, according to Kotra.


BY KIM JI-YOON [kim.jiyoon@joongang.co.kr]

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