On 19 January in Brussels, EU Trade Commissioner Malmström and Korean Trade Minister Kim held the 7th meeting of the Trade Committee of the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The Trade Committee is the highest bilateral institutional body established under the FTA. There were 36 Korean and 33 EU participants in total, reflecting the importance of this meeting.
The EU and South Korea are long-established allies and economic partners who share a similar vision of openness in global trade. This meeting was an excellent opportunity for an exchange of views about our trade relationship.
The EU-South Korea FTA has been an economic success story for both sides. Exports and imports are up hugely and the trade balance is levelling out.
However, the EU has some serious concerns regarding trade and sustainable development, and in particular labour rights in Korea, which it conveyed in this meeting. In addition, the EU side pushed for further progress regarding exports of beef to Korea, and the protection of European geographical indications and other intellectual property rights, to make the agreement work for as many people as possible. The Committee also discussed possible amendments to the FTA, to make it work better for both sides, importation to the EU of chicken ginseng soup (samgyetang), the EU's new trade defence rules, and the pressures currently felt by EU businesses operating in Korea, in particular in the automobile sector. All these issues will be followed up in further specialist working groups and sub-committees under the FTA in the months to come.