ABU DHABI - The World Trade Organisation's (WTO) ongoing 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) in Abu Dhabi is an opportunity for South Korea to further strengthen its ties with the UAE, Cheong Inkyo, South Korean Minister of Trade, told the Emirates New Agency (WAM).

"Korea is looking forward to leveraging MC13 as an opportunity to bolster the future-orientated cooperation at the multilateral level as well as engage in high-level exchanges throughout the year on holding the Korea-UAE 'Strategic Advanced Industrial Technology Partnership'," the minister said.

In doing so, he explained, both countries will be able to identify and deliver concrete cooperation projects in advanced industries such as mobility and aerospace, digital transformation and supply chains.

Minister Inkyo, who leads the South Korean delegation to MC13, spoke to WAM in an interview during the conference.

CEPA to expand ties

Furthermore, he noted that Korea and the UAE concluded the negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) last October.

"We now hope to see this agreement enter swiftly into force with a view to deepening our bilateral trade and investment."

The minister pointed out that Korea and the UAE clinched a total of 32 commercial Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) amounting to US$6.1 billion, along with Mubadala's decision to invest US$30 billion during the Korean President's State Visit to the UAE in January 2023.

"Such outcomes have expanded our bilateral cooperation from nuclear energy and the defence industry into new realms, including clean energies, new industries and trade and investment."

Relevance of JSIs in WTO

Talking about the discussions at MC13, Minister Inkyo said Joint Statement Initiatives (JSIs) are important to promote and modernise the WTO's negotiation function.

He referred to JSIs as a plurilateral negotiating tool initiated by groups of WTO members. Although open to all, such initiatives on specific issues do not follow the rule of consensus decision-making involving all WTO members.

"The incorporation of the JSIs on investment facilitation for development into the WTO framework would be a significant deliverable of MC13 and is expected to improve the global investment climate."

South Korea, as the coordinator of this JSI, would collaborate with member countries to deliver tangible outcomes, minister Inkyo stressed.

"We welcome progress regarding the JSI on e-commerce as trade rules that govern digital transformation and hope for its swift conclusion within this year."

According to the WTO, at its 11th Ministerial Conference in December 2017, like-minded groups of WTO members issued joint statements on advancing discussions on e-commerce, developing a multilateral framework on investment facilitation, launching a working group on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and on advancing ongoing talks on domestic regulation in services trade.

WTO reform

Minister Inkyo said WTO reform is of utmost importance, especially to have a fully functioning dispute settlement system. Negotiations related to fishing are also crucial, he added.

Korea supports the extension of the moratorium on e-commerce to ensure a predictable and reliable digital business environment, the minister affirmed.

Deliberation at MC13 on trade and industrial policies is important to prevent protectionist policies as well as the subsidy race from creating trade disputes and distorting global trade and investment, he observed.

Furthermore, minister Inkyo pointed out that climate change is a major challenge facing all of humanity, and therefore, "we must bolster the role of trade to accelerate the green transformation while ensuring that the climate and environmental measures of individual countries do not constitute trade barriers."

Despite the challenges of achieving fruitful outcomes at MC13, he expressed optimism that WTO will be able to deliver substantial results for the international community.