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Strategic deals: Rome and Seoul to cooperate across cutting-edge sectors

While in South Korea, Italy’s President Mattarella signed agreements on scientific cooperation, industry collaboration on key themes, and space. It’s the latest instalment of Italy’s pivot to the Indo-Pacific

The Italy-South Korea entente. Italian President Sergio Mattarella is back from a three-day State visit to South Korea, during which he toured the border (and called for permanent peace) and met with his local counterpart, Yoon Suk-yeol. The two heads of State reaffirmed the closeness of their “faraway, yet friendly” countries (in the words of the Italian President) and vowed to deepen bilateral cooperation.

  • South Korea is likely to be among the guests at the G-7 Summit under the Italian presidency in 2024.

A “turning point.” The main deliverables of President Mattarella’s visit came in the form of three cooperation deals. “We are at a turning point and have laid a solid foundation to strengthen and enhance bilateral industrial cooperation in key sectors such as semiconductors, critical raw materials, advanced automotive manufacturing, new green energy technologies and space,” said Italy’s Enterprise Minister Adolfo Urso.

  • “Our two countries will cooperate in science and technology in areas that are strategic for our companies. We will work both bilaterally and multilaterally, strengthening ties between our industries and exchanging views regularly to develop projects of common interest further.”

Trade, tech, space. The first cooperation deal involves the Korean Institute for Basic Science (IBS) and the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN). The second links the Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Italian Ministry of Enterprise and aims to strengthen bilateral industrial cooperation in four key sectors: semiconductors, critical minerals and new materials, automotive and greentech.

  • The third agreement covers cooperation in the field of space science and technology and lays the foundations for possible cooperation projects in the fields of space science and exploration, Earth observation (with a focus on environmental monitoring and disaster management), synthetic aperture radar technologies, integrated applications and the promotion of space sector initiatives for industry and trade.

Close in values. During his toast at the state dinner, President Mattarella spoke of the similarities that unite Italy and South Korea – such as a shared approach to reforming the UN’s governance and “the importance we both attach to respect for the international law of the sea and thus to freedom of navigation, including in the vast Indo-Pacific region.”

  • Those core tenets – a free and open Indo-Pacific – underpin Rome’s expanding economic, political and security projection in the region.
  • Over the past months, the Italian government has struck strategic partnerships with IndiaJapan, and Uzbekistan and upgraded ties with other countries (including, but not limited to, Taiwan and Tajikistan).

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