Dong-a Ilbo| March 16, 2009
`Korea-EU FTA to Be Concluded Next Month`
The European Union seeks to conclude its free trade deal with Korea early next month when leaders of the Group of 20 industrialized and emerging economies hold a summit in London, Seoul officials said yesterday.
If ratified, the agreement will create the world’s second-largest free trade zone worth more than 15.16 trillion dollars in gross domestic product after the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is worth 16.03 trillion dollars.
Officials at the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry and the Strategy and Finance Ministry in Seoul said they are positively reviewing the EU’s suggestion that trade ministers from both sides hold talks in London around April 2, when the G20 summit scheduled, to make official the settlement of the bilateral accord.
Chances are high, however, that President Lee Myung-bak and the heads of EU member countries will announce the conclusion of the deal in the presence of other leaders.
EU officials told their Korean counterparts that the announcement to be made at the G20 summit will help to ward off growing protectionism. The EU is the world’s largest single trading bloc and Korea is the world’s 13th-largest economy.
To this end, Korea and the EU will resolve remaining issues on product concessions and the service sector in their eighth round of talks slated for March 23-24 in Seoul.
A Korean trade official said, “After the conclusion of the eighth round of working-level talks, one or two politically sensitive issues such as reimbursement of tariffs will remain.”
The EU opposes the Korean government’s reimbursement of tariffs paid by Korean exporters when they import foreign law materials for processing, saying this puts EU companies at a disadvantage.
The conclusion of the agreement is also expected to give momentum in ratifying Korea’s free trade deal with the United States.
Jeong In-gyo, an economics professor at Inha University in Incheon, said, “If the Korea-EU free trade deal is sealed and its implementation picks up speed, the U.S. government, which has complained about elements of the Korea-U.S. deal, will feel burdened and be forced to reverse course.”
Finance ministers and central bankers from G20 countries who held talks in London Saturday ahead of the summit agreed to make efforts to end protectionism and adopted an eight-point joint statement.