Talking shop

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Talking shop

*The author is an industrial news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.



Before the first dialogue between high-level Korean and Chinese businessmen and former government officials on June 29 in Beijing, Chairman of the Korea Chamber of Commerce Park Yong-maan was pleased that a channel recognized by the governments of the two countries had been established. Park claimed that it was different from other channels as the heads of major groups, including SK Group chairman Chey Tae-won, were personally involved.

After the event, Park said that the biggest result was “saying what we wanted to say and hearing what we wished to hear.” Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and other Chinese officials asked Korea to join the trade war against the United States and promised to reinforce free trade, while Korean businessmen asked China to lift trade restrictions on Korea for things like electric car batteries. As Park intended, Korean businessmen and Chinese officials had frank talks on sensitive issues.

The businessmen’s talk is likely to be the most realistic channel for talks on trade with China. With so many obstacles in the way, high-level officials and businessmen got together and exchanged demands.

Another outcome of the dialogue was the discussion on building economic relations unstirred by political situations. The two sides shared an understanding that the economy should not be stirred by politics and came up with the idea of private companies coming together to respond to governments.

Chinese appliance company TCL Group’s chairman Li Dongsheng said that as politics and economy were not separated, Korean companies operating in China, including Samsung Electronics, suffered, and the Chinese government should pursue more stable policies by keeping promises in a more law-abiding way. Attendees said that businessmen have made controversial remarks there, considering the fact that China is still a government-led society. Park said that the dialogue was a great opportunity to convey the private sectors’ intentions to the governments and vice versa.

The key is continuing dialogue. Chey Tae-won proposed the creation of joint research teams for short-term and long-term tasks.
“The short-term team can be divided into researches on cooperation and discords, and the long-term team may focus on the Korea-China economic cooperative industrial complex as the first task,” Chey said.

Like it or not, Korea and China are destined to work together, but reality hasn’t been so easy. Hopefully businessmen’s dialogue will untangle the complicated knots.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 4, Page 29
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