Tag: South Korea

RCEP, the largest trade agreement in the world has born
Geopolitics

RCEP, the largest trade agreement in the world has born

The largest trade agreement: The free agreement in history has been signed in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi. We are talking about Asia, and yes above all, about China. In fact, Beijing brings home an unprecedented result: a commercial alliance with the nearby “Asian tigers” and with Australia and Japan, long ago in the US orbit created by Obama thanks to the TPP, later abandoned by Trump. An abandonment that left the Land of the Rising Sun orphan of its major commercial partner and which therefore forced him to turn to the second on the list, namely China, with which, however, he had not yet signed any commercial agreement. 

And in addition to the unpublished agreements on duties, eCommerce, and intellectual property, what stands out most of all is precisely this newfound multilateralism in a region, that of Asia-Pacific, which has always been studded with differences and frictions. Thanks to the RCP, and to the end of America first, Beijing proves that it can become the new epicenter of multilateralism, by signing an agreement of historic significance. For the first time, three of the top four Asian economies – China, Japan, South Korea – will be part of the same free trade agreement.

For some time, China has been trying to establish itself in the Asian region as a champion of multilateralism. And not just in Asia; we think of the new Silk Road, of investments in Africa, of those in European ports and commercial hubs, Italy in the lead. The RCEP is nothing more than a – great – complement to a party strategy that starts from far away. In addition to its immense commercial grade, the agreement has a significant political value.

 In the competition with the United States for world supremacy, Beijing has patiently and determinedly pursued its diplomacy, and it has built, for now only on paper, an influence block which represents 30% of global GDP and which, nevertheless, welcomes Washington’s old allies. However, it is a success for the whole area. From Japan, which manages to defuse the ongoing trade war between China and Australia, to then move on to the same ASEAN area, which expects to benefit widely from the reduction in tariffs.

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Even with India absent, the numbers of the agreement are impressive. We are talking about an area that, as we have seen, produces almost a third of world GDP and hosts 2.7 billion people. It includes all ten ASEAN countries, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, plus China, Australia, South Korea, Japan, and New Zealand. Observers estimate that it will strengthen economic ties within the region and add about $ 200 billion a year to the global economy. In terms of the GDP of the signatory countries, it will also have a greater weight than NAFTA in North America and the European Union itself. The result for Asia will be the strengthening of regional supply chains. An aspect on which Beijing is increasingly aiming to reduce Asian dependence on the United States.

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The focal point of the agreement reached is the commitment to progressively reduce duties by up to 90% on goods in circulation over 20 years – to 65% in the short term. That means goodbye to the many bilateral agreements in Asia that limited the circulation of goods and caused costs to rise. Thanks to the RCEP, it will no longer be necessary to conclude specific agreements between two states each time to remove duties on traded goods. From now on, a member country of the RCEP producer will be able to trade freely with all the other 14 nations of the agreement. According to analysts’ estimates, 86% of Japanese industrial exports to China and 92% of exports to South Korea will benefit from the cancellation of existing tariffs.

 The most important novelty is represented by the “rules of origin,” as the rules officially define the origin of a finished product. Today, a product made in Thailand that contains New Zealand parts, for example, could be subject to duties in some Asian states. Under the RCEP, on the other hand, the components of any member country would be treated in the same way, giving companies in the area an incentive to seek suppliers within the commercial region.

North Korea suspends all communications with South Korea
Asia Pacific Focus

North Korea suspends all communications with South Korea

North Korea, on 9 June, announced that it is severing hotline communication with South Korea. Subsequently, it will sever other ties with South Korea. The announcement was reported in the North Korean state news agency KCNA.

Earlier last week, North Korea had threatened to close the liaison office with South Korea and other collaborative projects. The action was taken after North Korea accused Seoul of sending leaflets and other objectionable materials to North Korea.

The KCNA report adds that top North Korean officials, including Kim Yo Jong, sister of supreme leader Kim Jong Un, are for actions against South Korea.

The action will mean North Korea will shut down communication with inter-Korean liaison offices and hotlines connecting the two countries. Hotlines connecting the two heads of nations will also be suspended.

According to a South Korean spokesperson, North Korea refrained from customary calls to liaison offices or in the two hotlines.

The two Koreas are engaged in routine calls every day, which are a way to manage essential means of communication.

The South Korean unification ministry, which is responsible for managing affairs with North Korea, said that it would continue to work towards agreed principle to maintain peace and prosperity in the Korean peninsula.
Yesterday, North Korean officials did not attend the morning call. However, they responded to the afternoon call.

The two sides had set up this arrangement in 2018 to diffuse tension. In the same year, leaders of both the Koreas had met thrice to initiate dialogue.

The channels of communication are critical to the peace process, which aims to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons program. International sanctions remain imposed against the regime in North Korea for its weapons program.

As per reports, influential Kim Yo Jong also wants to walk out of the military agreement signed with Seoul.

Analysts believe that the actions might be related to economic hardships caused by the sanctions rather than North Korean dissidents’ defection.

Relations with South Korea had deteriorated since last year when talks between US President Donald Trump and Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un failed to get any breakthrough in nuclear disarmament talks.

After the Korean war in 1950-53, the two Koreas, technically, remain in the war. Both sides ended the war by signing an armistice treaty rather than a peace treaty.

In South Korea, artificial intelligence is monitoring the health of the elderly
Asia Pacific Focus

In South Korea, artificial intelligence is monitoring the health of the elderly

The country is starting to channel its success in controlling the pandemic through technology into other aspects of healthcare.

South Korea was at one point an epicentre of the coronavirus. But with aggressive testing and extensive use of technology, they have been able to fight back. They have been lauded as a success story globally and this has also made their citizens more malleable to sharing their health data. This is apparent in the new enterprises springing up, like an experimental remote care service, where senior citizens are monitored 24/7 by voice-enabled smart speakers. This has especially become very popular since South Korea has an aging population, many of whom are poor and isolated from their families due to the virus.

Currently more than 3,200 people around the country have opted for this service, most of them are over 70 and living alone. The speakers listen to them throughout the day, monitoring for signs of danger while also using search words to look out for indications of loneliness or insecurity. The in-built artificial intelligence Aria also processes voice commands that can be used to look up news, music or general search. The devices can also quiz the residents to test their memory and cognitive functions, which can be used in recommending treatments.

Further, social workers who can also tap into the app if necessary and make calls or visits when something abnormal is detected or the device hasn’t been used in more than 24 hours. The government has exhibited keen interest in such technology as it can maintain quality welfare services for the elderly without the need for too much human involvement.

This is of course fraught with privacy concerns but the South Korean government is keen to allow businesses to access such information because they see data-driven enterprises providing a major boost to the pandemic-battered economy. Privacy activists and medical professionals who have been resisting such regulations so far have also been over-ridden by the mass adoption of such devices and apps in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic this year.

The public is now accustomed to handing over private health data for the benefit of both themselves and the community at large. Since the outbreak the government has been using mobile phone data, CCTV cameras and credit card records to find potential virus carriers. Tracking apps have been used to monitor quarantined individuals and the location history of patients have also been made publicly available.

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