Mr Deputy PM Hong Nam-ki, I would like to give you a warm welcome on behalf of my colleagues from the EU Member States. Thank you very much for finding some time for us from your busy schedule to provide us with an overview of the Korean economy, and thank you for being available to answer questions. This is much appreciated.
The EU is Korea’s third largest trading partner, and your number 1 investor who provides the Korean economy with tens of thousands of jobs. For us, Korea is the eighth largest trading partner, a remarkable positioning of the world’s 11th largest economy, the 4th in Asia.
My colleagues and I are looking forward to hearing from you your analysis of the current state of of the Korean economy. We know there are some concerns about a slowdown and I note that yesterday you announced that the government would be bringing forward a proposal to top up the budget at the end of this month. We would very much like to hear your assessment of the government's economic policies so far and President Moon's recent call for innovation and deregulation.
In support of your government’s reform policy we have recently initiated a SME Policy Dialogue and an exchange of experience on the preparations for the 4th Industrial Revolution. Upon invitation of President Moon we work with social partners and share our experience in social dialogue and mutual confidence building. Our cooperation on R&D, S&T is exemplary; at last year's winter Olympics the EU and Korea collaborated well to demonstrate the possibilities of 5G as part of Korea’s highly successful participation in the world largest research program, Horizon 2020. We cooperate closely with your Ministry: we have an annual bilateral dialogue in which we discuss macro-economic issues; and we have worked expeditiously with your Ministry to get Korea off the list of uncooperative tax regimes.
As you know, the European Commission is in charge of trade policy for all Member States, reflecting the Single Market, the world’s largest. We seek Korea’s strong support to maintain and reform the multilateral rules-based trading system of the WTO – a system essential for the export oriented Korean economy - past, present and future.
In times of raising protectionism and nationalistic and populist policies – unfortunately not only limited to trade policy – strategic partners like the Republic of Korea and the EU who are also main players in the international economic relations have the duty and responsibility to join hands to avoid instability, insecurity and to provide stability and predictability for our citizens and companies.
Our credo is, there is no protection in protectionism; there are no winners in trade wars.
The Korea-EU FTA has brought large benefits for both of us. But it is 8 years old now. We therefore think it is time to revisit it, and therefore we seek your engagement and cooperation to modernise the FTA, not least to remain aligned with the recent state-of-the art agreements concluded with Canada and Japan – a leading position Korea had 8 years ago. Let me add that FTAs also are a protective force against protectionism! Trade Commissioner Malmstroem's visit next week to attend the Trade Committee on ministerial level will be an excellent opportunity to advance our common agenda.
She will be focussing on solving some important market access issues, like the decade-long delay in opening the Korean market for safe European beef; the fair and non-discriminatory treatment of foreign companies, such as the European car manufacturers, and the ratification of core ILO Conventions, in order to ensure a level-playing field for companies operating in both markets, as an expression of our common value based policy and the spirit of our FTA.
Please convey to President Moon that we appreciate him restarting the dialogue with economic operators – some European companies and the European Chamber of Commerce, whose White Book with nearly 200 policy recommendations you know – were invited to join.
In a spirit of cooperation and the pursuance of mutual interest we appreciate you taking time for this event and look forward to continuing our policy dialogue with you as Deputy Prime Minister in charge of coordination of economic and financial affairs at large.