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South Korea

South Korea

July 2016 marks the fifth anniversary of the EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) took effect in July 2011. It 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, step-by-step approach. The majority of import duties were removed already in 2011. The remaining ones – with exception of a limited number of agricultural products by 1 July 2016.
  • The FTA also addresses non-tariff barriers to trade, specifically on the automotive, pharmaceutical, medical devices and electronics sectors.
  • The agreement creates new opportunities for market access in services and investments, and includes provisions in areas such as competition policy, government procurement, intellectual property rights, transparency in regulation and sustainable development.

The agreement was amended in 2014 to also allow Croatia to benefit from the same preferences as the other 27 EU Member States since its date of accession to the EU on 1 July 2013. This amendment was needed because Croatia was not member of the EU when the agreement was signed in 2010.

Better Regulation Agenda

Evaluation of the Free Trade Agreement between the EU and its Member States and the Republic of Korea

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Trade picture

  • The EU and South Korea are important trading partners. South Korea is the EU's ninth largest export destination for goods, whereas the EU is South Korea's third largest export market.
  • EU exports of goods to South Korea amounted to EUR 47.9 billion in 2015, whereas imports from South Korea totalled EUR 42.3 billion. In terms of EU exports, the most important categories of products are machinery and appliances, transport equipment and chemical products. As far as EU imports from South Korea are concerned, the main product categories are machinery and appliances, transport equipment and plastics.
  • The EU records a significant surplus in trade in services with South Korea. EU exports of services to South Korea amounted to EUR 11.9 billion in 2014 , compared to imports of EUR 6 billon.
  • South Korean investments in the EU have increased substantially from EUR 13.1 billion in 2010 to EUR 20.3 billion in 2014, Over the same period, EU investments in South Korea has now increased from EUR 37.5 to EUR 43.7 billion.

EU-South Korea "trade in goods" statistics

Trade in goods 2013-2015, € billions
Year EU imports EU exports Balance
2013 35.8 39.9 4.1
2014 38.8 43.2 4.4
2015 42.3 47.9 5.6

EU-South Korea "trade in services" statistics

Trade in services 2012-2014, € billions
Year EU imports EU exports Balance
2012 4.9 9.0 4.1
2013 5.7 10.7 5.0
2014 6.0 11.9 6.0

Foreign direct investment

Foreign direct investment 2014, € billions
Year Inward stocks Outward stocks Balance
2014 20.3 43.7 23.5

Date of retrieval: 14/04/2016

More statistics on South Korea

EU and South Korea

The agreement marked a new era in EU-South Korea trade relations and has contributed to the expansion of bilateral trade. Full implementation of the agreement is important. The agreement established a significant number of specialised committees and working groups between the two parties to monitor its implementation.

These bodies also provide an opportunity to seek resolutions to market access concerns and to engage in closer regulatory cooperation. The annual Trade Committee at the ministerial level plays a supervisory role and is designed to ensure that the agreement operates properly.

More on the operation of the agreement in practice.

Since the entry into force of the FTA in July 2011, the European Commission is monitoring closely the imports to and from South Korea in sensitive sectors.

  • Every two months the Commission presents a monitoring report to the EU Member States, the European Parliament and the relevant industry associations on the evolution of imports of textiles, consumer electronics and cars (including monthly statistics ).
  • Every year, the Commission presents a monitoring report to the European Parliament and the Council.

Other aspects of EU and South Korea cooperation:

The EU and South Korea have upgraded their relationship to a Strategic Partnership since 2010, ensuring a high level of commitment from both sides. A Framework Agreement was signed on 10 May 2010 and entered into force on 1 June 2014. It provides a basis for strengthened cooperation on major political and global issues such as human rights, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, counter-terrorism, as well as climate change and energy security. This is an overarching political cooperation agreement with a legal link to the EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement

An Agreement on Co-operation and Mutual Administrative Assistance in Customs Matters has been in force since 1997

The EU has established a permanent forum for consultation, to allow for the EU and South Korea to share experiences and views on competition policy, as well as share non-confidential information on competition law enforcement with South Korea

A more specific cooperation agreement concerning cooperation on anti-competitive activities also exists. The EU and South Korea signed the agreement on 23 May 2009 and entered into force on 1 July 2009

More information on the EU-Korea FTA

The EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement in practice
EU–Korea FTA : EMC and electric safety certification.

A user guide for electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) and electric safety certification. The EU–Korea FTA establishes a regime that eases certification procedures for electrical and electronic products.

Read user guide

The EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement in practice
The EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement in practice

A user guide to the FTA, focusing on practical aspects, to help all stakeholders to fully exploit the opportunities provided by the EU-Korea FTA.

Read user guide

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Trading with South Korea