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South Korea

South Korea

The EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA)entered into force in July 2011. It is the first of a new generation of FTAs. 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 when the FTA entered into force on 1 July 2011. On 1 July 2016, import duties will be eliminated on all products except for a limited number of agricultural products.
  • In addition to eliminating duties on nearly all trade in goods, the FTA addresses non-tariff barriers to trade with specific focus on the automotive, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and electronics sectors.
  • The agreement also 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.

Trade picture

  • The EU and South Korea are important trading partners. South Korea is the EU's tenth largest export destination, whereas the EU is South Korea's fourth export destination (after China, Japan and the US).
  • In 2013, EU exports of goods to South Korea amounted to 40 billion EUR, whereas imports from South Korea totaled 35.8 billion EUR. 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. In 2012 EU exports of services to South Korea amounted to 9.6 billion EUR, compared to imports of 4.6 billon EUR.
  • South Korean investments in the EU have increased substantially from 13.1 billion EUR in 2010 to 18.5 billion EUR in 2012, representing 0.5% of the total inward foreign direct investment (FDI) in the EU. Over the same period, EU investments in South Korea increased moderately from 37.5 to 39.5 billion EUR, representing 34.5% of the total FDI in South Korea.

EU-South Korea "trade in goods" statistics

Trade in goods 2012-2014, € billions
Year EU imports EU exports Balance
2012 38.0 37.8 -0.2
2013 35.8 39.9 4.1
2014 39.0 43.1 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 4.7 9.7 4.9

Foreign direct investment

Foreign direct investment 2013, € billions
Year Inward stocks Outward stocks Balance
2013 18.9 32.6 13.6

More statistics on South Korea

EU and South Korea

The agreement marked a new era in the EU-South Korea trade relations. It is important to create the right conditions for exporters to reap the benefits they expect from it. Thus continued attention is paid on the implementation of the agreement.

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 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.

Since 2010, the EU and South Korea have upgraded their relationship to a Strategic Partnership, 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, 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

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Trading with South Korea