The Leaderboard: Bark Taeho

The Leaderboard profiles the people behind the policies of the Asia-Pacific. This post features Bark Taeho the Minister of Trade for the Republic of Korea.

Who is he?

Bark Taeho is the Minister for Trade in South Korea. Previously, he held positions as the Chairman of the Korea Trade Commission in the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, President of Korean Association of Trade and Industry Studies and the Chair of Investment Expert Group of APEC, which gives him a diverse background for assessing South Korea’s trade objectives.  Minister Bark received his Ph.D in Economics from University of Wisconsin-Madison and has familiarity with the United States. As a former visiting scholar to IMF and World Bank, Minister Bark also has experience with the international financial institutions.

Dr. Bark Taeho, Minister of Trade for South Korea, shown here with Australian Trade Minister Craig Emerson. Source: Australian Trade ministry, used under a creative commons license.

Why is he in the news?

Most recently, Minister Bark traveled to Ankara, Turkey to sign the ROK-Turkey Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on August 1, 2012. According to Minister Bark, the bilateral trade agreement with Turkey is geopolitically important to South Korea because it will bring South Korean companies closer to Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa by taking advantage of Turkey’s strategic location. Turkey also hopes to close the widening gap in trade deficit with South Korea from this deal.

In July 11, 2012, Minister Bark hosted a discussion with graduate students at Seongkyunkwan University to express his positive outlook on the on-going FTA negotiation with China. However, he also said that FTA negotiations with China can be tricky because there are many sensitive issues between the two countries. The prospective FTA would focus on protecting agricultural sectors while stimulating manufacturing sectors. Minister Bark expressed his view that young professionals will be one of the main beneficiaries of the FTA agreement when multinational companies increase their investment in both countries, thereby increasing jobs for the next generation by 2030.

What can we expect from him?

Minister Bark Taeho is a key player behind regional FTA negotiations and in driving South Korea’s active pursuit in free trade agreements with various countries.  The debate over whether South Korea should join the Trans-Pacific Partership (TPP) will be influenced by Minister Bark’s calculation of how much South Korea stands to gain.


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