Yonhap News, Seoul
(Yonhap Interview) Vietnam’s president hopes for swift conclusion of free trade talks with S. Korea
21 December 2012
HANOI (Yonhap) — Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang voiced hope for a swift conclusion of negotiations with South Korea on forging a bilateral free trade deal but noted that an agreement should take each other’s interests into consideration.
In an interview with Yonhap News Agency on Thursday at the Presidential Palace, Sang also said he expected closer cooperation with South Korea as the two nations marked the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties on Friday.
"The two nations are working together to expand bilateral trade to US$20 billion earlier than the target year of 2015, and then further to US$30 billion," Sang said.
"Free trade negotiations are aimed at achieving the target, and I hope the two nations will swiftly conclude the negotiations in a direction that meets the interests of both sides."
South Korea and Vietnam have seen their trade volume rise sharply in recent years from US$9.68 billion in 2009 to $18.54 billion last year. In an effort to further boost trade, the two sides launched free trade negotiations, with the first round of talks held in September.
The two nations opened diplomatic relations in 1992, and they steadily eased their Cold War scars. South Korea fought with the U.S. against North Vietnam during the Vietnam War, which ended in victory for the communist North.
"Based on the achievements made so far, I am confident that the bilateral relationship will be further promoted," Sang said.
Currently, South Korea is Vietnam’s fourth-largest trading partner and second-largest foreign investor.
Sang thanked South Korean firms operating in Vietnam for helping solidify economic ties between the two nations over the past two decades.
"Korean firms created about 400,000 jobs in Vietnam last year and their total tax payment stood at some $1 billion," Sang said.
The bilateral relations were upgraded to a "strategic and cooperative partnership" during President Lee Myung-bak’s state visit to Vietnam in 2010, expanding their ties into the fields of not only the economy but also national strategy-related fields, such as national defense and security.
Last year, Vietnam agreed to seek greater nuclear energy cooperation with South Korea, paving the way for Korean companies to take part in a project to build nuclear power plants in the energy-hungry Vietnam.