Korea plans to participate in WTO e-commerce trade talks

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Korea plans to participate in WTO e-commerce trade talks

Korea said Monday it will participate in negotiations on electronic commerce involving nearly half World Trade Organization (WTO) members.

Hong Nam-ki, the minister of economy and finance, made the announcement in a meeting with relevant ministers in Sejong.

He said the talks are likely to take place in May or June. He did not provide any further details.

Earlier this year, 76 out of the WTO’s 164 members announced their intention to start negotiations on trade-related aspects of e-commerce.

WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo said earlier this month that e-commerce can unleash great potential, but there needs to be awareness of the challenges involved in areas such as connectivity and infrastructure.

“Without the right framework in place, there is a clear risk that big players will increasingly dominate, leaving smaller businesses behind,” Azevedo said at a session on digital trade and e-commerce on April 1.

A WTO study found that by lowering costs and increasing productivity, digital technologies could boost trade by up to 34 percent by 2030, according to the WTO.

In 2017, 71 WTO member states signed a joint statement to explore further work on e-commerce.

Also Monday, Hong said the government will draw up an extra budget and take other measures to boost the economy, noting pre-emptive measures are more important than ever before.

Hong said it would be inevitable for the Korean government to issue deficit-covering bonds to finance an extra budget, which is set to be submitted to parliament later this month.

Hong said he expects South Korea’s exports to gradually improve in the second half, but Seoul could face challenges in boosting exports.

“We will come up with measures to innovate key industries, such as shipbuilding, cars and displays, and we will diversify export items and regions for a quick recovery of exports,” Hong said.

Korea’s exports declined 8.2 percent in March from a year earlier, marking the fourth consecutive month that outbound shipments have fallen.

Hong also said Korea will make efforts to forge a free trade deal with Britain to ensure there is no vacuum in bilateral trade amid lingering uncertainties over Britain’s departure from the European Union (EU).

Korean exports to Britain came to $6.4 billion, and its imports from Britain stood at $6.8 billion in 2018, according to the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Energy.

Korea has clinched a series of free trade deals with major trading partners, including the United States, the EU and China, as well as Chile, Peru and Colombia, in recent years as part of its efforts to boost growth in the export-driven economy.

Hong also said Norway’s sovereign wealth fund’s plan to sell Korean treasury bonds is not something that can cause concern, adding that the fund made public its intention in 2017.

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund holds Korean treasury bonds worth 5.1 trillion won ($4.4 billion), accounting for 0.9 percent of all South Korean treasury bonds, according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

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