European Union–South Korea Free Trade Agreement

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EU-Korea FTA
Flag of South Korea.svg Flag of Europe.svg
Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Korea, of the other part
May 2007
Signed 15 October 2009
1 July 2011
Signatories 30 (The European Union, its 28 Member States, and Korea)[1]
Ratification status Provisional

The European Union–South Korea Free Trade Agreement is a provisional free trade agreement between the European Union (EU), its member states and South Korea. The agreement was signed on 15 October 2009.[2] The agreement has been provisionally applied since 1 July 2011. The ratification process was partially completed on 13 December 2015, pending ratification by Italy and Korea.[3] "The agreement is not yet in force" in the United Kingdom[4][5][6] and its future is yet to be clarified in the light of the United Kingdom's Withdrawal from the European Union.

The agreement would be the second largest free trade agreement, second only to the North American Free Trade Agreement.[2] It is also the most comprehensive the EU has ever negotiated: import duties are near eliminated on all produce and there is deep liberalisation in trade in services. It includes provisions for intellectual property (including geographical indications), public procurement, competition, transparency of regulation and sustainable development. There are also specific commitments against non-tariff obstacles on sectors such as automobiles, pharmaceuticals and electronics.[7]


This is the third trade related agreement that South Korea and the European Union have signed between themselves. The first, the Agreement on Co-operation and Mutual Administrative Assistance in Customs Matters was signed on 13 May 1997.[8] This agreement allows the sharing of competition policy between the two parties.[9] The second agreement, the Framework Agreement on Trade and Co-operation, was enacted on 1 April 2001. The framework attempts to increase co-operation on several industries, including transport, energy, science and technology, industry, environment and culture.[9][10]

Trade between the two parties was €64 billion in 2007. The EU is the second largest importer of South Korean goods. South Korea is the eight largest importer of EU goods.[9] The agreement is commonly referred to as the first of the next generation FTAs signed by the EU that addresses trade concerns beyond tariffs. Chief among these concerns are non-tariff barriers (NTBs); they are significant barriers to trade both in Korea and the EU. In fact, NTBs have been estimated to have the same protection level as a tariff at 76 percent in Korea and 46 percent in the EU.[11] According to some studies, an agreement can increase trade as much as 40% over the long term.[12]

Negotiations and opposition[edit]

Negotiations started in May 2007[9] and were expected to be completed in March 2009; however, several issues had to be resolved before the agreement could be finished.[13] Seven rounds of negotiations over various aspects of the agreements were completed[13] which addressed problems over several issues including rules of origin, auto trade issues, and allowing certain tariff reductions.[12]

Italian and some French automakers believe this agreement would significantly harm them by allowing South Korean automakers to compete against them in the EU. Adolfo Urso, a junior Italian minister for external trade, said that Italian government may veto the agreement based on the European automakers concerns, which it initially did in September 2010. Trade analysts like Hosuk Lee-Makiyama of ECIPE have rejected the lobbying of the car industry as "myths": while EU exports to Korea are estimated to increase by 400%, most Asian car brands manufacture their cars in the EU and Korean cars account for insignificant share of imports to the EU to threaten even the most inefficient car producers in Europe.[14]

Eventually all 27 countries that make up the EU along with the EU Parliament, approved the agreement before implementation.[15] South Korea has had significant opposition to previous free trade agreements most especially with the United States. This EU agreement is larger than the United States agreement. However, Hur Kyung-wook, Vice Finance Minister for South Korea, has said that he believes the agreement will go into effect in July 2010.[16] On 22 March 2011, the citizen group called Lawyers for Democratic Society (민주사회를 위한 변호사모임) announced that there were 160 cases of mistranslated errors in the Korean version of the document.[17]


In 2016, five years after the European Union–South Korea Free Trade Agreement has been provisionally put in place, the European Commission announced that EU exports to South Korea increased by 55%; European companies saved €2.8 billion in scrapped or discounted customs duties; and bilateral trade in goods between the EU and South Korea grew annually, reaching a record level of over €90 billion in 2015.[18]


  1. ^ "Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Korea, of the other part". Council of the European Union. 
  2. ^ a b Freedman, Jennifer M.; Jonathan Stearns (2009-10-14). "EU, Korea to Sign Trade Deal That May Be 'Wakeup Call' for U.S". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2009-10-15. 
  3. ^ Official Journal of the European Union 28.06.2011 L168/1, Council of the European Union
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  8. ^ "Agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Korea on co-operation and mutual administrative assistance in customs matters". European Commission. May 1997. Retrieved 2009-01-13. 
  9. ^ a b c d "European Commission – South Korea Briefing". European Commission. Retrieved 2009-01-11. 
  10. ^ "FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT for Trade and Cooperation between the European Community and its Member States, on the one hand, and the Republic of Korea, on the other hand" (PDF). European Commission. 2001-03-30. Retrieved 2009-01-13. 
  11. ^ "ECIPE". [permanent dead link]
  12. ^ a b "S. Korea Strives to Ink FTA With EU at Early Date". The Korea Times. 2009-01-07. Retrieved 2009-01-11. 
  13. ^ a b "Trade ministry plans to ink EU FTA in 1st quarter". Joong Ang Daily. 2009-01-01. Retrieved 2009-01-11. 
  14. ^ "Stepping into Asia's Growth Markets: Dispelling Myths about the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement". ECIPE. [permanent dead link]
  15. ^ Thomson, Roddy (2009-10-16). "EU, South Korea ink trade deal despite auto anger". AFP. Retrieved 2009-10-21. 
  16. ^ Hyun-joo, Jin (2009-10-17). "Seoul sees FTA with EU take effect in July". Korea Herald. Retrieved 2009-10-21. 
  17. ^ Jung (정), Eun-ju (은주) (2011-03-22). "'or'가 그리고?…'한-EU FTA' 160개 오역". The Hankyeoreh (in Korean). Retrieved 2011-04-17. 
  18. ^ "European Commission - PRESS RELEASES - Press release - Trade boosted by five years of EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement". Retrieved 2016-07-02. 

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