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South Korean PM visits Argentina

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South Korean PM visits Argentina

Korean PM visits Argentina
Korean PM visits Argentina
South Korean PM Han Duck Soo visits Argentina today to discuss lithium trade, key to electric vehicle battery manufacturing. Photo: Leah Mills/Pool Photo via AP

South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck Soo arrives in Argentina today.

Continuing his tour of Latin America, Han, along with government officials and chaebol directors, will meet Argentinean President Alberto Fernandez to discuss matters of trade security, bilateral relations, and cooperation in mineral exports. Agriculture, raw minerals, and electronic industries contributed to an increasing bilateral trade $2.215M USD in the 2021 fiscal year.

Argentina holds the third largest reserve of lithium hydroxide – a core component of EV batteries. With the Latin American Mercosur bloc divided on a Chinese FTA extension, South Korean tariff-free access to these lithium reserves are sitting in limbo. This backends Han’s visit to Chile earlier this week, where an understanding was reached to supply car battery mineral resources.

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Chaebol industry leaders’ involvement in key discussions today should facilitate a solution. Bilateral trade is likely to continue to increase, estimated at 3% for 2022, as Seoul extends a welcome approach to FTA development. However, Argentina’s hesitancy to disallow a China-Uruguay FTA can restrict Seoul’s access to lithium. Despite this, it is likely that chaebol officials may intervene with industry reform strategies – such as the development of Hyundai’s self-driving cars – to hasten export of mineral imports.

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