|Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) CEO Kwon Pyung-oh speaks during a press conference in Jung-gu, Seoul, Thursday. / Courtesy of KOTRA|
By Nam Hyun-woo
Korea's exports will rise to a record high this year, surpassing the $600 billion mark for the first time on soaring outbound shipments of semiconductors, petrochemicals and machinery, the head of the state-run export promotion agency said Thursday.
Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) CEO Kwon Pyung-oh told reporters the country's exports in the first eight months of the year grew 6.6 percent from the previous year to stand at $399.8 billion, showing the largest-ever growth, and he is "quite sure" that Korea's outbound shipment will likely surpass the $600 billion mark by the end of the year.
"KOTRA takes a survey of overseas buyers every quarter and they have shown favorable responses so far this year, while other reports also suggest a fine outlook," Kwon said. "With $200.2 billion remaining for the next four months, only a 1 percent year-on-year growth during the period will bring in the $600 billion era."
The agency attributed the solid exports in the eight months to rebound across major exporting items and new industries; and a recovery in the global info-tech industry and oil price hikes will help exports in the next four months.
Kwon said, however, next year's outlook will not be as favorable because of growing uncertainties in global trade.
"What will determine the global trade environment will be the trade conflict between the G2 (the United States and China)," he said. "If their conflict aggravates the global trade environment, it will slow global economic growth and spur protectionism among trade partners. Of course, that will affect Korea's trade too."
Along with the U.S.-China trade conflict, KOTRA picked economic structural changes in emerging markets, such as the rise in domestic demand and wage hikes as some of the factors that will take the growth momentum away from global trade.
"To cope with the changes, KOTRA is constantly communicating with its 127 offices across the world about their situations and is preparing preemptive measures," Kwon said.
KOTRA held the press conference to update reporters on its changes in the five months after Kwon took office in April. Upon his appointment, Kwon pledged a 45-task reform plan for KOTRA to better serve its mandate of supporting trade for small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs).
He said it has accomplished 23 out of the 45 tasks, by streamlining the headquarters' structure, while expanding its coverage outside of the Seoul and Gyeonggi Province areas.
Also, KOTRA has reallocated 11 staffers from developed markets to emerging markets as well as building new offices in Da Nang, Vietnam, and Ahmedabad, India.
"So far, we have been focusing on reforming ourselves to build better infrastructure for customer services, but from now, we will focus on improving actual services for customers so they can feel the difference," Kwon said.