Monday, August 6, 2012

S. Korea, Burma to deepen trade ties

Monday, 06 August 2012 13:47 Mizzima News

South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan met Burma’s Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin in Seoul on Friday to discuss expanding bilateral cooperation in trade, investment, resources, infrastructure and development, according to the South Korean Foreign Ministry.

Wunna Maung Lwin's four-day Seoul visit, the first such trip by a top Burmese diplomat since 1999, came as the Southeast Asian country goes through "positive changes," the ministry said in a press release.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, right, listens to his Burmese counterpart Wunna Maung Lwin during their meeting at the foreign ministry in Seoul on Friday, August 3, 2012. Lwin is on a four-day mission to discuss ways to expand bilateral economic cooperation. Photo: AFP

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and the South Korean foreign minister visited Burma earlier this year.

The two countries formally established diplomatic relations in 1975.

Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said he believed ties with Burma “have been strengthened almost every day.”

“There is a lot of potential to make further progress in our bilateral relations,” Kim said.

Wunna Maung Lwin called President Lee’s visit to his country a “milestone” in improving ties with South Korea.

In April, representatives from 85 South Korean private companies met with Burmese counterparts during an economic cooperation forum that included Samsung, Daewoo and Posco Steel, three of South Korea's largest corporations.

South Korean companies will seek investments in construction, mining, agriculture, electricity, energy, logistic and freight-forwarding, vehicles and auto parts, communication and multi-media, iron and steel, agro-fishery, timber and wood, financing, real estate, garment, transport, hotel and tourism, civil engineering and industries, officials said.

Commercial trade between the two countries reached US$ 970 million in 2011, according to Korean statistics.

South Korea's export to Burma amounted to $660, while its import from the Southeast Asian country was about $300 million.

South Korea mainly imports garments, textile, forestry products, agriculture and marine products while exporting construction materials, machines, iron and steel.

South Korea's total investment in Burma was US$ 2.9 billion as of January 2012 in 48 projects since Burma opened to foreign investment in late 1988, according to Burmese government data.

Daewoo is one of Burma’s largest foreign investors, with extensive holdings in the oil and gas industry. While most European and western oil and gas companies do not conduct business in Burma on account of economic sanctions and its poor human rights record, Daewoo has developed natural gas production in Burma. During explorations, Daewoo found one of the largest gas deposits in Southeast Asia, in the Shwe field.

In June, an agreement to build a new 500-megawatt gas-fired power plant has been signed by the Burmese Minister for Electric Power No-2, Khin Maung Soe. The plant could be completed in about one year, said officials in an article in The New Light of Myanmar, the official state-run newspaper.

The agreement involved a Memorandum of Understanding that said the plant would be built in Thakayta Township by the ministry in cooperation with BKB Consortium (South Korea) and Hexa International Co., Ltd by BOT/JV system. The project includes two gas turbines, two head recovery stream generators and one stream turbine. It will be able to generate 500 megawatt and distribute electricity to Rangoon and its environs, which suffered extreme power shortages this spring.

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