- Ministry News
Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Lee Attends 8th Mekong-ROK Business Forum
1. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam, hosted the “8th Mekong-ROK Business Forum” in Hanoi, Viet Nam, on December 4. The Forum, organized by the Korea International Trade Association and the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was held in a hybrid (face-to-face and virtual) format for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
o The Forum was attended in person by around 120 people from Korea, including the public-private joint delegation led by Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Lee Taeho and representatives of Korean companies in Viet Nam, as well as around 100 people from Viet Nam, including delegates from the central and provincial governments and companies. Other Mekong countries (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Thailand) took part in the Forum virtually.
2. At this year’s Forum held under the theme “Business in the New Normal: Turning Vulnerability into Resilience,” the participants diagnosed the impact of the spread of COVID-19 on SMEs and small business owners in the region and intensively discussed ways for Korea and Mekong countries to work together in overcoming such crisis and enhancing regional resilience.
3. In his opening remarks, Vice Minister Lee noted that Korea and Mekong countries have been advancing their relations by holding the 1st Summit last year and establishing the strategic partnership at the 2nd Summit this year. He went on to stress that the Korean government is firmly committed to further reinforcing Korea-Mekong cooperation based on the “New Southern Policy Plus” announced by President Moon Jae-in at the ASEAN-related Summit in November.
o Vice Minister Lee took note that not only the governments but also the private sector including companies has contributed significantly to enhancing Korea-Mekong cooperation, and stated that it is very important to strengthen public-private partnerships in order to more effectively overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises faced by the Mekong region including climate change and natural disasters.
o In this regard, Vice Minister Lee mentioned that the Mekong-ROK Business Council, which Korea and Mekong countries agreed to establish at the 1st Mekong-ROK Summit last year, proposed the introduction of fast track between Korea and the five Mekong countries, and added that intergovernmental consultations on the issue are currently underway.
o In addition, Vice Minister Lee explained that by using the Mekong-ROK Cooperation Fund and Official Development Assistance, Korea and Mekong countries are carrying out various types of cooperation focused on strengthening the Mekong region’s capabilities for responding to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. He went on to say that Korea’s Digital New Deal policy would help further strengthen Korea-Mekong cooperation in the digital sector.
4. In his opening remarks, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam Le Hoai Trung, who attended the Forum as head of the Vietnamese delegation, noted that Korea-Mekong cooperation has developed at multiple levels since its beginning in 2011 and that the trade volume between Korea and Mekong countries this year has been recovering to the level of last year despite COVID-19.
o Furthermore, he said that the 8th Mekong-ROK Business Forum is very timely, as SMEs are especially suffering great damage due to COVID-19, and expressed hope that this Forum and virtual one-on-one business matching would contribute to improving SMEs’ resilience.
5. In the following two sessions held on “Emerging opportunities and challenges for businesses in the changing landscape of the global economy” and “Navigating in the new normal towards sustainable and inclusive growth and the role of Mekong-ROK cooperation,” participants from the Asian Development Bank made presentations, and panelists from Korea and five Mekong countries had robust discussions. In addition, virtual one-on-one business matching between companies of participating countries was held to help Korean companies explore new business opportunities.
6. After the closing of the Business Forum, a separate dialogue session between Korean companies and Viet Nam’s provincial governments also took place, during which Korean companies were briefed on the investment environment in major provinces of Viet Nam. High-level officials from six provinces of Viet Nam made presentations in person, showing high expectations for attracting investment from Korean companies and expanding cooperation with Korea.
7. This year’s events for Korea-Mekong cooperation successfully concluded with the 8th Mekong-ROK Business Forum, following the Mekong-ROK Senior Officials' Meeting (SOM) in July, the 10th Mekong-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in September, and the 2nd Mekong-ROK Summit in November.
o As next year has been designated as the “Korea-Mekong Exchange Year” in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the launch of Korea-Mekong cooperation, the Korean government will continue efforts to gain more attention and support for Korea-Mekong cooperation from the people of each country so that the year 2021 can become another milestone in the development of Korea-Mekong relations.