On Saturday of September 3, President Park Geun-hye voiced her support for a free trade agreement between South Korea and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). The Eurasian Economic Union, consisting of five different nations including Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, make up for a substantial level of Gross Domestic Product that is integrated with the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). In fact, President Park’s main goal seems to be an attempt to utilize the resource rich EAEU in order to cooperate and combine South Korea’s applied technologies to underdeveloped, but resource rich areas in East Russia. However, what is currently being left unspoken is the level of cooperation and trade currently existent between the two regions.
According to the Korean International Trade Agency, trade with the EAEU constitutes for a mere 3% of Korea’s imports at its highest peak in 2014, while Korean exports to EAEU reaches a mere 2% in 2014. Furthermore, even deeper within these figures, 90.3% of Korean exports is dealt singularly with Russia, while Korean imports from the EAEU bloc is singularly constituted by Russian products taking up 96.8% of the trade with the EAEU.
What we begin noticing inherent within these figures is a reality where the South Korea-EAEU trade still necessitates a large development in both purpose and collaboration with not only Russia, but the different EAEU states such as Armenia or Kazakhstan. After all, even if a successful free trade agreement were to be made, under the current situation, without a set purpose behind the agreement, its utility and value will inevitably decline as there are no primary resources that can be listed on the agreement for both sides to take advantage of.
Furthermore, whilst President Park sounding hopes of cooperation in East Russia with the collaboration of South Korea’s applied technologies and EAEU’s resources, without specific statements and strategies that clearly define the extent of collaboration and the technologies and resources planning to be utilized, the efficacy of the South Korea-EAEU FTA is truly questionable.
Indeed, regarding the topic of the current South Korea-EAEU FTA, there still exists countless issues and strategies that must be deliberately planned out on a long term basis. However, we must remind ourselves not to make the EAEU FTA into another diplomatic struggle, but rather one of economic value that can further strengthen the economies of both regions simultaneously.