The 16th meeting of the Joint Committee between the European Union (EU) and the Republic of Korea was held in Brussels on Tuesday 21 January 2020. The meeting provided the opportunity to review the strategic partnership between the EU and the Republic of Korea ahead of the Summit that will take place later in the year in Seoul.
Since 2010, the EU and the Republic of Korea have deepened and strengthened their strategic partnership, which is based on a comprehensive set of agreements. These agreements cover political, economic relations and trade relations, and security cooperation. They are implemented through some 40 bilateral committees, working groups and dialogues.
Following the Security Dialogue held in Seoul in November 2019, the European Union and the Republic of Korea continued discussions on how to intensify security cooperation. The Republic of Korea’s participation in the EUNAVFOR Operation ATALANTA mission off the coast of Somalia is the centrepiece of this cooperation and the Joint Committee also discussed cooperation on cyber security and maritime security.
On global challenges, the EU and the Republic of Korea confirmed their commitment to multilateralism and to the rules-based international order, free and fair trade and their wish to enhance cooperation in international fora including the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation and the G20. They agreed to strengthen their cooperation on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. The EU and the Republic of Korea will join forces to implement the Paris Agreement, including in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow this year, as well as on the transition to circular economy.
On trade and investment, the discussions focussed on the implementation of the EU-Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The FTA has generated substantial and well-balanced benefits on both sides with bilateral trade reaching some € 100 billion in 2018. However, in some areas challenges remain. In particular, the European Union called upon the Republic of Korea to effectively implement the Trade and Sustainable Development chapter of the FTA and to remove the ban on EU beef from the majority of its Member States.
On sectoral cooperation, the EU and the Republic of Korea agreed to work together on connectivity and towards establishing a new Transport Dialogue. The recent adoption of the new data protection legislation in Korea is a welcome development. It paves the way for the conclusion of talks on a Data Adequacy Decision.
Financial cooperation between the EU and the Republic of Korea covers a wide spectrum of issues, including joint efforts to combat money laundering and the shared ambition to advance green finance. Regarding research, innovation and ICT cooperation, the European Union and the Republic of Korea announced the launch of the digital dialogue and engaged in an exchange of information on policies and cooperation in the area of research and innovation. In February, they launched a bilateral Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Policy Dialogue under the Industrial Policy Dialogue. The discussion demonstrated that both partners have a shared view of the importance of SMEs for their economies and face common challenges in developing policy responses.
Cooperation in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing was also discussed. The EU and the Republic of Korea committed to continue strengthening their good cooperation in this area, in particular in light of the EU-Korea IUU Joint Statement of 18 October 2018. The Republic of Korea's participation in the Erasmus+ programme and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions, as well as possible cooperation on labour-related and social issues was also on the meeting’s agenda.
The EU delegation was led by Gunnar Wiegand, Managing Director of the Asia and Pacific Department of the European External Action Service (EEAS). The Delegation of the Republic of Korea was led by Kang-Hyeon Yun, Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The next EU-Republic of Korea Joint Committee will meet in 2021 in Seoul.