10 October 2010


Signing of a comprehensive free trade agreement between the EU and South Korea

The European Union and South Korea signed in Brussels on Wednesday a bilateral free trade on an unprecedented scale, the first of its kind between Europe and Asia.

The agreement, which should apply from July 2011 to allow the removal of tariffs. For EU exports to South Korea would represent 1.6 billion euros per year.

The text also provides for the elimination of non-tariff barriers, including certain regulations and standards for the automotive sector, pharmaceuticals or consumer electronics.

The text was signed at a ceremony in Brussels by the South Korean Minister of Commerce, Jong-Hoon Kim, the Belgian Minister of Commerce Vanackere, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, and EU Commissioner Trade Karel De Gucht.

The signing took place within the framework of a meeting between the EU and South Korea, after the close of a summit between the main countries of Asia and Europe in Brussels.

The negotiation of the agreement with South Korea took three years.

This accord was cleared on September 16 by Heads of States and Governments of the EU meeting in Brussels, but must still be ratified by Parliament with a vote on first reading scheduled during the plenary session of 18 to 21 October.

The EU governments and the Euro Deputies should include agreeing on the terms of a "safeguard clause" foreseen in the text for the automotive sector.

This clause is intended to address the concerns of European manufacturers who fear unfair competition from small Korean cars. It would limit reimbursement of customs duties in an explosion of imports of Korean cars.

South Korea is the fourth largest trading partner of the EU outside of Europe.

The agreement with Seoul should pave the way for a host of other free trade agreements with Asian countries.

The EU negotiates particularly since 2007 with India and this year began discussions with Singapore and Malaysia.

The European Commission also said this week on the sidelines of an Asia-Europe summit in Brussels, she wanted to start "as soon as possible" negotiations with Vietnam.

A Japanese government source, for its part said this week that his country wished to negotiate "as soon as possible" a free trade agreement with the EU.

Japan, Korea's major competitor in sectors such as automobiles or electronics, as she would enjoy privileged access to European markets.


Tae-Ho Yoo