By Kim Tae-gyu
BERN, Switzerland ― From India to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, President Park Geun-hye pitched "sales diplomacy," scoring some practical economic results during her first overseas trip of the year.
Park, who returned home Thursday after finishing her nine-day journey, held a series of meetings with global political and business leaders and produced some tangible results supportive of Korean companies.
In a summit with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, she produced an agreement to revise the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement ― a free-trade pact that has been in place since 2010. South Korea has called for revising the agreement, complaining its level of liberalization is lower than that of similar accords India has with Japan and other countries.
Park also called for the Indian government to help Korea's top steelmaker POSCO carry out its long-overdue project of building an integrated iron mill in the State of Odisha on the east coast of the country.
Park's senior economic secretary Cho Won-dong, said that Park's state visit to the South Asian country provided a fresh impetus for the stalled POSCO project, which has yet to start construction nine years after it was first announced.
The Indian government revalidated the firm's environmental clearance, which expired in 2012, just days before Park's visits.
POSCO now expects to start steel production there as early as in 2022 if its planned investment, worth some $12 billion, proceeds without any fresh obstacles.
Vocational training and Davos
Her visit to Switzerland focused on bolstering cooperation in vocational training.
In a summit, Park and Swiss President Didier Burkhalter agreed to increase cooperation in vocational education. They signed a memorandum of understanding that calls for providing vocational training opportunities in Switzerland every year for 20 young South Koreans.
Park also promoted the "creative economy" geared toward generating greater revenue sources on the strength of high-tech convergence.
In several events throughout the overseas trip, Park came up with a few examples to reach the creative economy such as the Internet of things (IoT), smart-grid and three-dimensional maps for land space.
"A creative economy harnesses the creative ideas of individuals and marries them with science and technology, with IT. It promotes the convergence of different industries and the confluence of industry and culture. And along the way, it creates new markets and new jobs," Park said in a keynote speech at the Davos forum.
She proposed the "Davos Consensus" to galvanize the global economy, which languishes in the aftermath of the international financial tailspin in the late 2000s and the debt crisis in the Euro zone in the early 2010s.
"May this WEF lead to what we could call the ‘Davos Consensus': the belief in entrepreneurship as the driving force of sustainable, inclusive growth," she said.
"I also hope that Korea's quest for a creative economy can offer the international community a practical, entrepreneurship-driven strategy for shaping a new future."