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3 June 2009

S Korea, Asean sign investment deal, broaden trade pact

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South Korea and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) on Tuesday signed an agreement to boost investment in each other, which they said completed their broader free trade pact.

The agreement gives investors from South Korea, the fourth-largest economy in Asia, easier access to a market with a population of some 600 million people and a combined gross domestic product of some $1.3 trillion.

Trade between the two sides rose 25 percent during 2008 alone to $90 billion, and President Lee Myung-bak said Seoul aimed to boost the amount to $150 billion by 2015.

Trade ministers from South Korea and the Asean member countries signed the agreement at the end of their two-day summit held on the South Korean resort island of Jeju to mark the 20th anniversary of their partnership.

South Korea and Asean signed a free trade agreement on goods in August 2006 and a separate one on services in November 2007.

Lee pledged on Monday to boost aid and transfer more development know-how to Southeast Asia to jointly fend off a larger threat to their export-driven economies from rising protectionism in Western economies.

Several Asean members have been weathering the global downturn relatively well and are expected to maintain solid growth over the coming years.

Most Asean countries are also rich in energy and minerals, which resources-deficient South Korea desperately needs to power its factories making products from chips to autos and televisions.

Asean is now the third largest export market for South Korea and its second biggest destination for investment.



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