Let me first welcome the Delegation of the Republic of Korea, led by Mr. Joengil KIM, Deputy Minister for International Trade and Legal Affairs (Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy). I would also like to thank the Discussant, H.E. Mr. Mathias FRANCKE (Ambassador of Chile) for his introductory remarks and the Secretariat and Government of Korea for their respective reports.
With a GDP of over 1.7 trillion USD in 2020, Korea ranked as the 10th largest economy in the world, the 4th largest economy in Asia, but also the 5th largest exporter and 7th largest importer of goods in the world and also in the top 10 of services exporters and importers in the world. Thanks to its effective management of the pandemic, it has demonstrated a remarkable economic resilience through the COVID crisis, with a decline of GDP limited to 1% 2020, the OECD’s best performance and the second best among G20 countries. In this context, the EU commends Korea for providing practical support in the early phase of the epidemic, by exporting test kits worth around USD 3.4 billion.
With trade in goods and services worth 70% of its GDP in 2020, Korea remains one of the most open G20 economies. For the EU, it is a key partner in the Indo-Pacific region. The EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement is the bedrock for our strong trade relationship over the past 10 years. With 9.3%, the EU was the fourth-largest destination of Korean exports; with 11.9% of imports, it was Korea’s third-largest supplier.
The EU notes the similarity between the Korean New Deal with its green and digital pillars, and the EU’s own policy priorities, which opens up avenues for cooperation both bilaterally and in multilateral fora. In this respect, the EU welcomes Korea’s pledge to also achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
The EU and Korea share common values and a common interest in supporting multilateralism in general and the WTO in particular. The EU therefore commends Korea’s active engagement in the WTO negotiations on fisheries subsidies, e-commerce, investment facilitation, and services domestic regulation negotiations.
The EU and Korea share commitments to WTO reform, and work closely together in the Ottawa group. The EU also welcomes Korea’s activity on environment-related issues, including under the umbrella of the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions.
The EU also commends Korea’s October 2019 decision to no longer seek special treatment reserved for developing countries in current and future WTO negotiations. Korea’s own experience of transforming from an aid-recipient country to a donor country over a few decades is a striking example of the benefits brought about by trade liberalisation.
The EU would like to take the opportunity of this review to thank Korea for its cooperation on labour rights. In particular, the EU would like to reiterate its congratulations to Korea for ratifying three fundamental ILO Conventions in December and looks forward to the ratification of the outstanding fundamental ILO Convention.
Finally, with regard to sanitary and phytosanitary matters the EU regrets that no significant improvements has been recorded in Korea during the period under review. The EU notes the continued discrepancies between the Korean legislation, the WTO SPS Agreement and the relevant international standards of the OIE, especially for the recognition of regionalisation and lengthy and overly burdensome approval procedures. Instead of recognising EU regionalisation measures, Korea continues to impose country-wide bans on EU Member States when an animal disease outbreak occurs (African Swine Fever, Avian Influenza). The EU urges Korea to take prompt steps and to authorise the pending applications of beef imports as it has done for only two EU Member States so far.
On behalf of the EU, I wish the Republic of Korea a very productive and successful review.