SOUTH KOREA | Brussels, 29 April 2021
EU-Republic of Korea agreement ensured resilient trade despite pandemic
Today, the EU and the Republic of Korea highlighted how their ten-year-old trade agreement remains a bedrock of the bilateral economic relationship and a strong foundation to help our economies recover and grow from the Covid-19 pandemic. The 9th meeting of the Trade Committee established by the EU-Republic of Korea trade agreement was held today in person in Brussels and was co-chaired by Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis and Korean Minister for Trade Yoo Myung-hee.
Since the agreement’s entry into force in 2010, total bilateral trade in goods increased by 46% in 2020, whereas bilateral trade in services recorded even more impressive growth of 86% in 2019 compared to 2010. The pandemic took a toll on global trade flows last year, but our bilateral trade flows dropped only by 1.6%, compared to 11% globally, and our bilateral trade in goods stood at around €90 billion in 2020. This is very welcome in view of the need to rebuild economic growth following the Covid-19 pandemic.
The EU-Republic of Korea Trade Agreement not only helps trade but also promotes social and environmental values. After the EU initiated a dispute, a panel of experts confirmed that the Republic of Korea is in breach of labour commitments under the agreement. Since then, the Republic of Korea has ratified three fundamental International Labour Organization Conventions, amended its legislation and adopted guidelines that should ensure that the Republic of Korea’s trade union legislation operates in compliance with International Labour Organization principles, and the Republic of Korea is working on the ratification of the fourth outstanding convention. The EU welcomes these developments.
The EU and the Republic of Korea have agreed today in the context of the meeting of the Trade Committee to continue to discuss and monitor compliance with recommendations of the panel of experts over the next year, under the framework of the agreement. They have agreed to meet to review the application of the new trade union legislation shortly after it enters into force in July 2021, in an ad hoc interim meeting of the Committee on Trade and Sustainable Development. They have also agreed to review jointly the preparatory work taken forward by the Republic of Korea for the ratification of the outstanding fundamental International Labour Organization Convention.
The EU and the Republic of Korea reached an agreement on the extension of the list of geographical indications (GIs) protected in the Annexes of the EU-Republic of Korea agreement. This process marks the upcoming 10th anniversary of the agreement by enlarging the number of geographical indications protected by 43 EU GIs and 41 Korean GIs. The parties agreed to continue in the near future the discussions on further additions of geographical indications in the framework established under the agreement.
The EU side raised long-standing sanitary and phytosanitary issues urging the Republic of Korea to commit to a concrete plan with timelines to finally address these issues in a short period of time. Notably this regards the regionalisation in EU animal health policy (African swine fever and avian influenza), which is still to be recognised by the Republic of Korea, and for the Republic of Korea to lift the ban on EU beef exports from the many EU Member States with outstanding applications.
Despite the difficulties brought by the pandemic, both sides continued working constructively. Adoption of an administrative amendment of the automotive annex of the agreement that was signed today is another example of constructive engagement. This amendment is important for companies on both sides, providing transparency and predictability in the business environment.
The EU and the Republic of Korea are aligned on their ambitious goals for climate neutrality and have both put climate at the core of their policies. The two sides discussed how the implementation of the trade agreement could further promote climate action and co-operation in digital trade.