South Korea aims to triple trade with France
South Korea hopes to triple its trade with France over the next five years, its President Lee Myung-Bak said Friday, hailing a looming free trade agreement with Europe.
"I call on you to multiply by two or even three the amount of trade between our countries in the next five years," Lee told a gathering of French and Korean business leaders in Paris, on the last leg of a European tour.
Lee spoke after meetings with business leaders including Louis Gallois, chief executive of the European defence giant EADS, which owns Airbus, and Cho Yang-Ho, head of Korean Air.
Gallois said the France-based plan maker would deliver Korean Air's first Airbus 380 superjumbo on May 24.
Also at Friday's gathering were representatives of the South Korean global shipbuilder STX and European satellite launch company Arianespace.
The free trade accord between South Korea and the European Union scheduled to come into force on July 1 is the most ambitious the EU has negotiated, and its first with an Asian nation.
Two-way trade between the EU and South Korea in 2009 was worth 53.5 billion euros ($72.8 billion), with South Korean exports -- mainly cars, ships, electronics and semiconductors -- accounting for 32 billion euros.
Businesses leaders were upbeat, despite eurozone jitters and the South Korean central bank's unexpected decision Friday to hold interest rates at three percent for a second month despite inflation pressure.
"We have not carried out any specific studies, but we don't think there will be a big impact" from eurozone debt troubles on South Korea's exports, Huh Chang-Soo, chairman of the Federation of Korean Industries, told AFP.
Lee was due to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy later Friday.
Officials said the leaders would discuss plans for November's Group of 20 summit, of which France took over the presidency from South Korea last year, as well as diplomatic tensions with North Korea.
© 2011 AFP