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2nd Vice Minister's Opening Remarks on the Occasion of the Korea-US Joint Public-Private Economic Forum Seoul, November 7, 2019
Opening Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Lee Taeho
The Honorable Keith Krach,
Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of State,
To begin with, I’d like to welcome the Moderators, Speakers and Guests to the Third Korea-US Joint Public-Private Economic Forum and extend my appreciation to all the participants for attending today’s event.
My special appreciation goes to Under Secretary Krach for being with us this morning after successfully co-hosting the Fourth Senior Economic Dialogue yesterday. It was thanks to him and his team’s dedication and effort that we adopted a Joint Statement that signaled the strong will of our two governments to work together bilaterally, regionally as well as globally, based upon our alliance and shared values. We also adopted a separate Action Plan on Women’s Economic Empowerment.
Today’s meeting is already the third Public-Private Forum. Year after year, new insights and creative ideas are added to the pool of knowledge which the ROK and the US governments can benchmark in shaping economic policies.
When I look at the list of participants, panelists and guests that are gathered today, I am certain that today’s discussion will be another constructive session bringing the public and private sectors together.
At the Fourth Senior Economic Dialogue held yesterday, officials from Korea and the United States discussed a variety of ways to enhance our economic relations. This time, in particular, based on the discussions at previous SEDs, the Republic of Korea and the United States focused on areas which can yield concrete deliverables and explored a common ground for future joint projects.
Today, we will channel yesterday’s discussion into three areas of interest and open the floor for your input: first we will share our insights on the Bilateral Economic Relationship between Korea and the United States; then we will delve into promoting partnership between the two countries in the ASEAN Region; and, finally, a fitting theme for both countries at this time: Women’s Economic Empowerment.
The KORUS FTA is, more than anything else, a core pillar in building up a mutually beneficial relationship between our two countries. As President Trump has indicated, both Korea and the United States stand to gain from the KORUS FTA and they are indeed a demonstration of the strength of our alliance.
When we organized the session on bilateral economic relations under the umbrella of the Public-Private Economic Forum, it was our hope to hear the voices of the private sector and find concrete ways to act as a catalyst in those areas where our two economies can perform best.
Please identify the areas that will become the engines for future growth for both economies. Be creative in offering suggestions that build upon our existing government policies. We are waiting for your insights on future-oriented domains, such as energy, cyberspace, robotics, AI – the list goes on.
The second topic we would like to address is the Korea-US Partnership in the ASEAN Region. ASEAN is a palette of all sorts of dynamics: the average age of the population is less than 30, more than 650 million people are residing in 10 countries and you will find the world’s most dynamic countries hand in hand with the lesser developed. They share one common trait. These countries outpaced the rest of the world on growth in GDP per capita with average annual real gains of more than 5 percent. ASEAN is also the world’s third largest recipient of foreign direct investment.
Two years have passed since the Korean government launched the New Southern Policy, enhancing and strengthening a multi-layered relationship with the ASEAN countries. Under the theme of People, Prosperity, and Peace, Korea has been able to establish a mutually beneficial and future-oriented foundation for economic cooperation with the ASEAN countries.
The Korea-ASEAN Commemorative Summit and the first Korea-Mekong Summit, which will be held in Busan at the end of November, will bear witness to the newly enhanced Korea-ASEAN relationship. With the conclusion of new FTA negotiations with Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines prior to the summit and the launch of a variety of projects to enhance cooperation in the areas of infrastructure, digital connectivity, science and technologies, and people-to-people exchanges, the economic cooperation with ASEAN is expected to be upgraded to the next level.
For the United States as well, ASEAN is a valuable economic partner in many different domains. The ITAN (Infrastructure Transaction and Assistance Network), the BUILD (Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development) Act, and Asia EDGE (Enhancing Development and Growth through Energy) are some of the outstanding efforts that the United States has been making to deepen the level of cooperation with the ASEAN countries.
It is possible for the United States and Korea to find common ground in concrete initiatives with similar policy objectives. We can expect a real synergy effect – for the ROK and the United States, and for the partner countries. This form of Trilateral plus collaboration will generate greater economic opportunities for all involved, while providing both Korea and the United States with ways to engage more effectively with the region. Again, we look forward to receiving creative feedback from you on this issue.
Last but not least, Women’s Economic Empowerment. According to the OECD studies, the labor force participation rate of women aged from 15 to 64 is stagnating well below 60 percent and the gender wage gap is 36.7% in Korea.
How can we achieve economic empowerment for all working women? How to promote women’s economic empowerment especially in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths, the so-called STEM area? What ways are there to raise the labor force participation rate of women without dropping the average birth rate, which has plummeted below 1 in 2018 for the first time in Korea?
It is a priority area both for Korea and the United States - and we are looking forward to hearing your input based on real-life challenges and necessary incentives. In Korea the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF) is working hard to implement policies aimed at increasing the ratio of women executives in both the public and private sectors. And the United States is playing a leading role for Women’s Economic Empowerment through various instruments, such as establishing the We-Fi (Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative) Fund with the World Bank. By the way, I authorized yesterday the transfer of Korea’s contribution for this year - 3 million dollars - to this Fund.
Today, we are gathered here with an array of women entrepreneurs who have been able to fully realize their potential. The stories you have to tell will be invaluable assets in shaping policies to empower women entrepreneurs.
I would like to close my remarks by expressing my sincere gratitude to the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy for all its excellent work and cooperation with the Ministry in preparing for today’s Forum. And I am indeed grateful to my friends from the U.S. Department of State and other agencies, for travelling all the way to Seoul - and for their invaluable support which has contributed greatly to making this forum so meaningful.