YANGON—Myanmar and South Korea have agreed to cement their economic cooperation, particularly in the trade, investment and energy sectors, to help Myanmar overcome the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking via videoconference during Wednesday’s first meeting of the two countries’ Joint Commission for Trade and Industrial Cooperation, South Korean Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Sung Yun-mo said his country would boost investment and trade relations with Myanmar despite COVID-19’s hampering of the economy.
The meeting aimed at finding ways for Myanmar to expand economic ties with South Korea. The two sides exchanged ideas on pressing economic issues between the two countries relating to COVID-19.
Sung said Seoul would help Myanmar’s products reach the global consumer market by setting up a Korea desk in Myanmar, a single-window system designed to help South Korean companies and investors deal with administrative issues.
The meeting follows South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s visit to Myanmar in September last year, during which the two sides reached major economic agreements on finance, trade and investment cooperation, as well as on setting up the Korea desk and infrastructure projects. However, implementation of some major projects and activities has been delayed due to the pandemic.
One of Myanmar’s largest economic partners, South Korean investment in the country stood at more than US$4 billion (5.3 trillion kyats) as of August, according to the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA), the Myanmar government’s investment agency.
Union Minister for Commerce U Than Myint said he hoped economic cooperation with South Korea would help Myanmar overcome its current economic crisis.
He added that Myanmar is willing to work closely with South Korea in the trade, investment and energy sectors.
During the meeting, officials from South Korea also discussed the implementation of the Myanmar-Korea Apparel Testing Research Institute (MKATRI) and the Technology Advice and Solutions from Korea (TASK) scheme, as well as investments in the Myanmar textile sector and bilateral cooperation in the foodstuffs production and packaging sectors.
The two sides also agreed to develop rules and regulations for motor vehicles and to boost Korea’s assistance for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Myanmar.
Myanmar is a focus of Seoul’s New Southern Policy, which prioritizes boosting trade and investment. During Moon’s trip to Myanmar, the two sides launched the Korea Myanmar Industrial Complex (KMIC) project, a joint industrial complex in Hlegu, north of Yangon.
With an estimated cost of $110 million, KMIC will comprise industrial and commercial areas, a research-and-development facility and a training school. According to the Yangon Project Bank, it will be built on 225 hectares and will focus on producing goods for export.
South Korea said around 200 Korean companies are expected to invest in the production facilities, which will generate a projected $10 million in taxes annually. However, construction of the facility has been delayed by COVID-19.
During Wednesday’s meeting, South Korea and Myanmar agreed to begin construction of KMIC in December.
Currently, South Korea is also helping to build the Korea-Myanmar Friendship Bridge, which will link downtown Yangon to Dala Township on the opposite bank of the Yangon River. It is also planning to build a new industrial complex in Dala.
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