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South Korea

South Korea

The EU-South Korea free trade agreement (FTA) has been provisionally applied since July 2011 and was formally ratified in December 2015 . It goes further than any previous agreements in lifting trade barriers and was also the EU's first trade deal with an Asian country.

The agreement was amended in 2014 to 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. Croatia was not yet a member of the EU when the agreement was signed back in 2010.

Exporter stories

See how the EU-South Korea trade agreement benefits companies and communities across the EU

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Trade picture

  • South Korea is the EU's ninth largest export destination for goods, whereas the EU is South Korea's third largest export market.
  • EU goods exports, the most important categories of products are machinery and appliances, transport equipment and chemical products.
  • The main EU imports from South Korea are machinery and appliances, transport equipment and plastics.
  • The EU records a significant surplus in trade in services with South Korea.
  • It is South Korea's biggest Foreign Direct Investor.
  • The Commission's Annual Report on the Implementation of the EU-Korea FTA contains an overview of trade developments in all areas.
  • For the most recent trade data, please refer to the graph below (for a data table format, click on the square button in the top right corner of the graph), and to the link for detailed trade in goods statistics.

EU-South Korea: Trade in goods

Trade in goods 2014-2016, € billions
Year EU imports EU exports Balance
2014 38.8 43.2 4.4
2015 42.4 47.8 5.4
2016 41.4 44.5 3.1

EU-South Korea: Trade in services

Trade in services 2013-2015, € billions
Year EU imports EU exports Balance
2013 5.6 10.8 5.1
2014 5.9 11.9 6.1
2015 6.3 11.1 4.8

EU-South Korea: Foreign direct investment

Foreign direct investment 2015, € billions
Year Inward stocks Outward stocks Balance
2015 20.9 49.8 28.8

Date of retrieval: 15/02/2017

More statistics on South Korea

EU and South Korea

The EU-South Korea free trade agreement eliminates duties for industrial and agricultural goods in a progressive, step-by-step approach.

The majority of import duties had been removed in 2011. The remaining ones – with exception of a limited number of agricultural products – were removed after 5 years on 1 July 2016.

The FTA also addresses non-tariff barriers to trade, specifically in 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 established a 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 application 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 bi-monthly statistics to the EU Member States, the European Parliament and the relevant industry associations on the evolution of imports of textiles, consumer electronics and cars.
  • Every year, the Commission presents an Annual monitoring report on sensitive sectors 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 in 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, 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, which entered into force on 1 July 2009.

More information on the EU-Korea FTA

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

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

Trading with South Korea