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EU-Korea Roundtable

13 March 2013

Prospects for EU-Korea relations and Regional Integration in East Asia 

On 13 March, the EU-Asia Centre and Covington&Burling LLP held a roundtable on EU-Korea Relations and Regional Integration in East Asia. Ambassador Jean de Ruyt, Senior Advisor at Covington&Burling LLP, one of the largest law firms in the world, welcomed participants to what he called a very timely event in light of the EU-Korean FTA and rising tensions in East Asia.


Ambassador Kim Chang-beom said that EU-Korea relations were in  good shape and suggested that the FTA should be a benchmark for future FTAs. Looking to the future he proposed four areas for closer cooperation: a new paradigm for economic growth; regional integration in North East Asia; promoting multilateralism and a norms- and values-based international system; and ensuring peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.


Opening the panel discussion, Fraser Cameron, Director of the EU-Asia Centre, noted the increased attention that the EU was paying to Asia now. This attention, largely trade and economic, needed to be expanded t political and security issues.


Gerhard Sabathil, Director for Asia at the EEAS, emphasized the tremendous development of relations from ‘distant traders to strategic partners’. He said the goal was to develop a mature political relationship. Further, reconciliation within North East Asia was crucial. The EU should better translate its assets into influence and get more involved in regional multilateral fora in Asia, such as the East Asia Summit (EAS). Within the EU there needed to be a better link between the EU and member states as well as better linkages between Commission policies and trade negotiations.


Heesang Kim, Counsellor Korean mission to the EU, pointed to further trade cooperation between Korea and the EU on three levels: bilateral, multilateral, and regional. On the bilateral level the FTA should be put to full use, on the regional level Korea could learn from the EU in terms of regional integration, and on the multilateral level the WTO was still the best way to trade liberalization and should be strengthened. FTAs should be supplementary and supportive of the WTO..


Antonio Parenti, Deputy Head of Unit at DG Trade, said the effects of the FTA had been positive so far, trade on both sides had increased. Korea was a special partner for the EU in East Asia as it was the only country to conclude an FTA both with the EU and the US. In the light of FTA negotiations with Japan and possibly the US, the challenge was how to bring these FTAs back to the WTO.


Eleonora Catella, advisor at Business Europe, said that in general FTAs were seen as highly beneficial for global as well as for bilateral agreements. WTO-Plus aspects should, however, be covered. Catella agreed that the EU-Korea FTA could serve as a benchmark for future FTAs. The next step would be the full implementation of the FTA and it was still too early to assess all its benefits. In 2016, after another round of tariff liberalization, the impact would be clearer. Non-tariff barriers should be taken into account as well as issues behind the border. European businesses were worried that additional regulations could be established.


The following discussion focused on concerns of the automobile sector, non tariff barriers, the Spaghetti/Noodle bowl effect, impact of the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the importance of stable political relations for trade.