The President of the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Moon Jae-in addressed the 58th Trade Day Ceremony. The event was attended by Korean as well as international trading professionals.

Following is the complete text of his speech at the 58th Trade Day Ceremony:

Fellow Koreans, distinguished international trading professionals,

In Korea’s economic history, 2021 will go down as the Year of Trade. This year, our trade has broken the US$1 trillion mark in the shortest period of time ever. The Republic of Korea’s exports and total trade for the year are forecast to surpass US$630 billion and US$1.2 trillion, respectively. Both figures are all-time highs. We have emerged as the world’s eighth-largest trading powerhouse, a step higher from the previous year. This proud achievement has been made possible by all of our trading professionals and people pulling together.

Our people have been doing everything possible to prevent and control COVID-19, and our businesses have been doing their utmost to produce and export products. Large companies have made it easier for SMEs to ship their exports. The Government, with the help of businesses, has mobilized some 90 temporary vessels to open the door wider for exports.

Our economy is also on a vigorous rebound thanks to the strength of our trade. Among the G20 countries, Korea has been one of the fastest to recover and is maintaining its firm standing as one of the ten largest economies. Both domestic demand and employment are recovering as well. We have proudly turned crises into opportunities beyond all expectations. Marking the 58th Trade Day, I am deeply grateful to our international trading professionals for establishing a new milestone in the Republic of Korea’s trade history. My congratulations also go to those honorees who have been recognized for their proud accomplishments.

Proud international traders,

Not just quantitatively, our trade this year has also grown in a more substantive manner. Both our flagship and new industries have become more competitive. Our shipbuilding industry received the largest orders in its history, and petrochemical exports surpassed US$50 billion for the first time. Memory semiconductors have continued to rank first by far in exports worldwide. In addition, exports of rechargeable batteries and OLEDs as well as those from three major new industries – system semiconductors, eco-friendly cars, and bio-health – have also maintained rapid, double-digit growth.

Hallyu, the Korean Wave, has won the hearts and minds of people around the world. Exports of cultural content have exceeded US$10 billion for three years in a row, becoming a new export engine, and the era of a Korea Premium has been ushered in thanks to enthusiasm for the Korean Wave. For the first time, our exports of agricultural and fishery food products surpassed US$10 billion, and the export of K-beauty products also grew enough to be ranked the third-largest in the world.

More than anything else, it is pleasing to see our export markets expanding widely and exporters growing more diverse. Exports have been increasing for the eighth consecutive month not only to the four major markets – the United States, China, the European Union, and Japan – but also to five newly emerging markets: ASEAN, India, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Middle East, and Latin America. Meanwhile, SMEs are becoming the main players in our exports. Nearly 10,000 business ventures and 25,000 microbusiness owners are actively exporting. As of this November, SME exports had already surpassed their record-high annual total from 2018. Export engines have diversified, and qualitative growth has been achieved on top of quantitative growth. This is the result of the passion and sweat of our international traders. The Republic of Korea – as comprehensive trading powerhouse – is right in front of us.

Fellow Koreans, international traders,

Korea has grown and developed through free trade. We have actively participated in the multilateral trade system and concluded FTAs with 57 countries, whose combined GDP accounts for 80 percent of the world’s total. Constantly striving to lower trade barriers, we have ventured out to reach a wider world.

We have to ceaselessly leap over the barriers facing free trade. Travel restrictions due to COVID-19 and supply chain instability are increasing, and the European Union is adopting a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism. The Government will actively respond to protectionism and new trade barriers. We will be standing by our international traders, so they will be able to fully engage in competition worldwide.

First, we will thoroughly brace for global supply chain instability. Starting last month, an early warning system came into operation to preemptively identify the production and export situations in major countries – with a focus on 4,000 items for which we are highly dependent on overseas markets. We will designate key economy- and security-related items and devise measures to stabilize supply and demand for each one, for instance, by expanding stockpiles, diversifying import sources and producing them domestically.

We will take an active role in the response to shipping bottlenecks as well. We will provide companies with real-time data on the status of logistics through an integrated information platform. We will also expand overseas joint logistics centers and increase logistics-related support.

Second, we will further expand our trade, so it cannot be shaken by external shocks. We will provide comprehensive financial, marketing and consulting support, so an increasing number of SMEs can enter overseas markets. Digital trade offers SMEs more opportunities, and its foundation will also be reinforced. We will assist with the entire digital export process – from providing purchasing information to buyers to online payments and international deliveries.

Our export market will be expanded further. When the RCEP goes into effect early next year, our Asia-Pacific markets will grow. We will also broaden markets in Latin America and the Middle East by pursuing FTAs with Mercosur, the Pacific Alliance, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the United Arab Emirates.

Third, we will support corporate efforts to reduce carbon emissions in response to the strengthening of global environmental standards. The world is moving toward carbon neutrality. Only companies that reduce carbon emissions and goods that require fewer emissions to produce will be competitive in the new trade order. The Government will expand R&D and tax support to spur development of low-carbon technology and, in particular, actively assist SMEs’ low-carbon transition. I encourage those Korean businesses that are voluntarily participating in RE100 and accelerating ESG management. The Government will stand by companies in their efforts to become carbon neutral.

Fellow Koreans, distinguished trade professionals,

Last July, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development unanimously raised Korea’s status to “advanced nation” – the first such change of status since the UNCTAD was established. Unshaken by successive crises – from Japan’s export restrictions to the COVID-19 pandemic – we have become an advanced country through the power of trade.

However, there are some who do nothing but downplay and deny even these precious achievements. This is tearing down our people’s pride and hope. It is true that many challenges such as inequality and polarization remain in our economy. Nevertheless, I’d like to see people support impressive accomplishments unsparingly. Today, I ask you to give trade professionals some encouragement through a big round of applause. We will surmount any challenge. We can be truly proud of our people’s potential. We will turn any crisis into an opportunity. Let’s vigorously charge ahead to become an unshakable trade and economic powerhouse.

Thank you.