INTA MEPs: EU-South Korea trade deal beneficial, but labour rights lagging behind 

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The five years of the EU-South Korea free trade agreement has led to a significant growth in bilateral trade, but Seoul should properly implement labour rights conventions before a further deepening of relations, MEPs say in a resolution adopted on Tuesday.

The 5 years since the implementation of the EU-South Korea free trade agreement has brought a 47% increase in EU exports to Korea, turning a 7.6 billion EU trade deficit into a 2.5 billion euro surplus. Foreign direct investment has also grown steadily on both sides, MEPs note in a non-binding resolution adopted by 33 votes to 4 with 1 abstention.

Members welcome these positive impacts, but point out that the Trade and Sustainable Development chapter of the deal has not delivered the hoped results regarding Korea’s respect for international labour rights conventions. There are still cases of violation of freedom of association, including imprisonment of trade union leaders and an interference in negotiations, they add.

“Today, when the protectionist narrative has become popular, we should also talk more about the benefits of international trade. The deal with South Korea, for example, is much more beneficial as predicted”, said rapporteur Adam Szejnfeld (EPP, Poland).

“We, of course, have to resolve a number of issues in the field of non-tariff, sanitary and phytosanitary barriers, intellectual property rights and the violations of workers' rights. And we need to promote the deal better among small and medium enterprises, because only a few knows about the potential benefits”, he added.

MEPs urge the Commission to start formal consultations with the Korean government and expect these issues to be resolved before a further deepening of trade and investment relations.

Committee Members also listed a series of other problems to be analysed and appropriately enforced including technical barriers to trade, intellectual property rights and the recognition of geographic designations. They note that Korea has recently created new non-tariff barriers on unsubstantiated grounds, such as previously non-existing technical norms for European car manufacturers.


The EU-Korea FTA, taking effect in July 2011, goes further than any previous agreements in lifting trade barriers and it is also the EU's first trade deal with an Asian country. The agreement eliminates duties for industrial and agricultural goods in a progressive manner and addresses non-tariff barriers to trade, specifically on the automotive, pharmaceutical, medical devices and electronics sectors. It creates new market access opportunities in services and investments, and includes provisions in competition policy, government procurement, intellectual property rights, transparency in regulation and sustainable development.


Next steps:

A full House is set to vote on the report in May.