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Yonhap News Agency - 28 January 2021
S. Korea, Uzbekistan declare launch of talks on free trade agreement
By Lee Chi-dong
The leaders of South Korea and Uzbekistan proclaimed the launch of negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement, as they had a virtual summit Thursday, according to Cheong Wa Dae.
If forged, it would be South Korea’s first pact on trade in goods with a partner of its New Northern Policy. The key diplomatic initiative of President Moon Jae-in aims to boost economic and political ties with more than a dozen countries located north of the Korean Peninsula.
The pact is formally named the "Agreement for Sustainable Trade and Economic Partnership (STEP)."
Moon chose Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev for his first formal one-on-one summit talks of 2021.
In the summit, they noted that the two sides have constantly developed their relationship since it was upgraded to a "special strategic partnership" during Moon’s visit to Tashkent in April 2019, Cheong Wa Dae said.
Moon voiced hope that the two nations will cooperate closely with each other for the co-prosperity of Eurasia, and Mirziyoyev expressed support for Seoul’s New Northern Policy.
Moon also pledged to continue efforts for the complete denuclearization of Korea and permanent peace, and the Uzbek leader reaffirmed unswerving support for the Moon administration’s peace drive.
South Korea and Uzbekistan have completed a joint study on the envisioned STEP and relevant domestic procedures, with a plan to begin talks in the first quarter of this year.
The two sides, meanwhile, also signed a memorandum of understanding on expanding cooperation in the digital and green sectors, which are a core element of the Korean-version New Deal project.