South Korea’s Indo-Pacific strategy on India and Southeast Asia

by P.V25 May 2023 Last updated at 18:31 PM

Indian Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman attended the Investors Roundtable meeting in South Korea
Indian Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman attended the Investors Roundtable meeting in South Korea - Among its ambitions, South Korea now brands itself as a “Global Pivotal State that actively seeks out an agenda for cooperation and shapes discussions in the region and the wider world”.

Korean expanded vision is vast. Its Indo-Pacific strategy speaks of reaching beyond Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, India, and the United States to the Pacific Islands, the African Coast of the Indian Ocean, Europe, and Latin America.

This month, Korea welcomed the Minister of Finance Indian Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for a 4-day official visit.

During her visit to South Korea, Sitharaman attended the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Governors’ seminar on the theme ‘Policies to Support Asia’s Rebound” and the Investors Roundtable meeting.

Sitharaman expressed gratitude to the investors in South Korea for showing continued confidence in India and for expressing their willingness and commitment to participate in the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme, particularly for the mobile phone and electronic components sector. She also invited the investors to become part of the Indian economy’s journey.She added, “Now if the existing labour remains where they are, they are not going to be up-skilled to meet up with these technology infusions. There will be a crisis even for the manufacturer, so will be his next generation of workers. So, governments of the day together with industry will have to constantly, even as they balance this climate versus productivity move and invest more towards greening. You have to on the other side bring in skill sets which are required for more technology-driven society and that is where you will bring this work."

For Southeast Asia, Indonesia is particularly encouraged by South Korea’s support of the centrality of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP). For Jakarta, ASEAN is not only a critical pillar of the Indo-Pacific architecture but remains the “cornerstone” of its foreign policy. Considering South Korea named Southeast Asia and ASEAN second after its North Pacific neighbors in its list of key partners, Southeast Asian states must capitalize on Seoul’s intention to strengthen its relations with both the grouping and individual states. Seoul has taken concrete steps in this direction, announcing the Korea-ASEAN Solidarity Initiative, aimed at improving economic ties, and agreeing to deepen cooperation with ASEAN in the AOIP’s four priority areas of maritime, connectivity, economic, and sustainable development cooperation.

Currently, the RoK is also Vietnam's leading source of foreign investment with a total capital of 80.5 billion USD. In the first four months of 2023, the RoK, along with Singapore, Japan, China, Taiwan (China) and Hong Kong (China) accounted for 75.1% of the country's total investment capital.

Besides investment, the RoK also ranks second in terms of cooperation in tourism and labour, and third in trade exchanges with Vietnam.

Bilateral trade between the two countries reached nearly 88 billion USD last year. The RoK's export turnover to Vietnam last year totalled 60.98 billion USD, while it spent 26.72 billion USD on importing goods from the Southeast Asian nation.

However, Vietnam's exports to the RoK contracted 7% year-on-year to 7.8 billion USD in the first four months of 2023. During the period, Vietnam's imports from the market hit 16.7 billion USD, down 26% year-on-year.

Trade experts said the Korean market had an import scale of 731 billion USD each year, so there remained much potential for Vietnamese enterprises to tap into this lucrative market.

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