commerce minister-economic recovery

SEOUL, March 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new commerce minister vowed to step up efforts to create more jobs and develop new growth engines Monday, noting the country's economy, as well as its exports, are facing difficulties stemming from both external and internal factors.

"Our economy is facing great difficulties. Conditions for exports are worsening due to a global economic downturn and growing competition from newly emerging economies, including China, while our labor and capital-intensive development strategy is nearing its limits," Yoon Sang-jick, the new minister of knowledge economy, said in his inaugural speech.

The former vice minister of knowledge economy said the best way to overcome such difficulties is to develop new engines of growth by accelerating convergence between different industrial sectors, which he claimed will also help create new, quality jobs.

"To this end, we must improve the competitiveness of key manufacturing sectors through a convergence of information technology with manufacturing technologies and create industries that lead, not ones that follow," he said.

Yoon also urged efforts to ensure joint, balanced development of small and large businesses, as well as different regions of the country.

"We must also continue to strengthen our support for our small and medium-sized companies to become global firms. For an expansion of investment in the rural areas, (the ministry) will increase benefits for foreign-invested firms operating outside of the capital, and also expand support and incentives for South Korean companies returning from overseas expansions," he said.

The new commerce minister said his ministry will also work to better align the country's trade policy with its overall economic policy so its trade can better support the country's national interest, as well as its economic recovery.

Under a government-proposed bill on government restructuring still pending at the National Assembly, the ministry is set to start handling the country's trade affairs, including diplomatic negotiations for free trade agreements that are currently handled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

"With its industrial expertise, the ministry plans to maximize the outcome of new trade policies by increasing consistency throughout the different phases of policy implementation that range from setting up trade policies to trade negotiations and policy implementation," Yoon said.

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