|In this Jan. 28 file photo, President Moon Jae-in speaks during online summit with Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Korea Times file|
South Korea’s trade ministry said Thursday it plans to expand economic ties with Uzbekistan by launching new projects in a wide array of areas from ICT to the medical sector, as the COVID-19 pandemic has recently weighed down bilateral business cooperation.
Seoul and Tashkent are set to hold their fifth round of working group meetings virtually later in the day to share ideas on how to expand cooperation in trade, investment and other areas, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
The two countries agreed to hold regular talks on economic ties during their summit in 2019.
During the meeting, South Korea and Uzbekistan vowed to find ways to revitalize their trade, which recently has been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, by promoting the digital trade and tapping new infrastructure projects.
South Korea also offered to lend a hand to Uzbekistan’s medical sector, including establishing an information management system at its hospitals.
The latest efforts come in line with South Korea’s efforts to penetrate deeper into the Central Asian market.
In January, the two countries said they will seek to clinch a free trade agreement named the Agreement for Sustainable Trade and Economic Partnership (STEP).
Trade between the two countries came to $1.72 billion in 2020, down 27 percent from the previous year. Uzbekistan was the 36th-largest export destination for South Korea, with outbound shipments reaching $1.7 billion.
South Korea mostly shipped auto parts and cars to the Central Asian nation, while major imports included pulp, a raw material for paper and fruit.
When completed, the pact with Uzbekistan will mark the first free trade deal signed with a Central Asian nation. (Yonhap)