SEOUL, Dec. 5 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye said Thursday that the government will foster new export industries, help smaller firms' export capabilities and strengthen free trade networks with other nations in order to make South Korea the world's fifth-largest trading power by 2020.
Park made the remark during a ceremony marking the 50th Trade Day, as South Korea is expected to break the US$1 trillion mark in annual trade in the third straight year, and the country's exports and trade surplus are also expected to reach all-time highs this year.
Despite the positive numbers, Park cautioned against complacency.
"We cannot sit contently with these achievements. Our export industries are now facing new challenges," she said. "Developing nations are chasing us in technology at a faster pace, and manufacturing industries in advanced nations are reviving, making the global competition fiercer than ever."
Global trade environments are also changing rapidly as large economies, such as the United States, the European Union and Japan, are seeking free trade deals, and non-tariff barriers are also rising, she said.
Trade Day was first designated in 1964 to celebrate the reaching of $100 million in annual exports. Then-President Park Chung-hee, the father of the current president, made exports a key focus of his economic development drive under the slogan "Nation Building by Exports."
Park said she will launch a second "Nation Building by Exports" drive.
"Under the goal of becoming the world's fifth-largest trading power and reaching $2 trillion in annual trade by 2020, I will actively carry out three major tasks of fostering new export industries, enhancing export capabilities of small and middle-class firms and strengthening sales diplomacy and our free trade foundation," she said.
South Korea is currently the world's eighth-largest trading power
Park said South Korea should break away from the traditional reliance on manufacturing sectors for exports and develop new export industries in services, culture and other high-value-added areas. The country can also excel in transit trade, she said.
Park noted that there are more than 3.2 million small and intermediate-sized firms in South Korea, but only 2.7 percent of them engage in exports. Still, their exports account for about one third of South Korea's total exports, she said.
"I believe our future in trade hinges on these small yet strong firms," she said.
Park said the government will help companies with no export experience to expand overseas.
She also pledged to step up her "sales diplomacy" drive to create a favorable trade environment for Korean businesses.
"Through an FTA with China, I will lay the groundwork for expanding into China's domestic market and respond actively to regional free trade discussions, such as TPP, RCEP and TTIP, in a direction that maximizes our national interests," she said.
TPP, RCEP and TTIP refer to proposed regional free trade deals.
TPP stands for the Trans-Pacific Partnership led by the U.S.; RCEP stands for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership between Southeast Asia and its dialogue partners; and TTIP stands for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the U.S. and the EU.
South Korea is a member of RCEP negotiations and has expressed interest in joining the TPP talks.
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