Current portal location

Website content

Countries and regions

South Korea

South Korea

The EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) entered into force in July 2011 and is the first completed agreement in a new generation of Free Trade Agreements launched by the EU in 2007. It is also the EU's first trade deal with an Asian country. This new generation of agreements goes further than previous agreements in lifting trade barriers.

  • The Agreement eliminates tariffs for industrial and agricultural goods in a progressive, step-by-step approach. Only a limited number of agricultural products are excluded from tariff elimination. 
  • In addition to eliminating duties on nearly all trade in goods, the agreement addresses non-tariff barriers to trade.
  • It also includes provisions on issues ranging from services and investments, competition, government procurement, intellectual property rights, transparency in regulation to sustainable development.

Trade picture

  • The EU and South Korea are important trading partners. South Korea is the EU's tenth largest trade partner, and the EU is South Korea's fourth export destination (after China, Japan and the US).
  • After slowing down in 2009 due to the financial crisis, trade flows between the EU and South Korea started to increase again in 2010. In 2011 South Korea reached the important benchmark of $ 1 trillion total foreign trade (close to 100% of the Korean GDP).
  • EU exports to South Korea enjoyed an annual average growth rate of 7% between 2007 and 2011.
  • The trade between the EU and South Korea is dominated by power/non-electrical machinery, chemicals, transport equipment, optical and photo equipment and base metals. EU records a significant surplus in trade in services with South Korea. EU provides to South Korea specialised services in such sectors as banking, financial and accounting services.
  • European companies are the largest investors in South Korea.

EU-South Korea "trade in goods" statistics

Trade in goods 2011-2013, € billions
Year EU imports EU exports Balance
2011 36.3 32.5 -3.8
2012 38.0 37.8 -0.2
2013 35.8 40.0 4.1

EU-South Korea "trade in services" statistics

Trade in services 2010-2012, € billions
Year EU imports EU exports Balance
2010 4.6 8.5 3.9
2011 4.5 9.0 4.5
2012 4.6 9.6 5.1

Foreign direct investment

Foreign direct investment 2012, € billions
Year Inward stocks Outward stocks Balance
2012 18.5 39.5 21.0

More statistics on South Korea

EU and South Korea

The implementation phase of the Free Trade Agreement is now ongoing to ensure that the mechanisms used are efficient and effective in providing market access for EU businesses in South Korea and Korean businesses in the EU.

The Free Trade Agreement is put into practice through an annual Trade Committee, seven Specialised Committees, seven Working Groups and an Intellectual Property Dialogue. These different bodies provide an opportunity both to seek resolution of market access concerns and to engage in closer regulatory cooperation. For more information, see the User Friendly Guide to the Agreement.

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). In addition, the Commission presents an annual monitoring report to the European Parliament and the Council.

A Framework Agreement between the EU and South Korea was signed on 10 May 2010. It provides a basis for strengthened cooperation, including 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. This agreement was signed by the EU and South Korea 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-friendly 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

Other languages available

Trading with South Korea