South Korea-EU FTA’s poisonous articles

The Hankyoreh | editorial | 13 July 2009

South Korea-EU FTA’s poisonous articles

It is being said that the South Korea-European Union (EU) free trade agreement (FTA) has virtually been concluded. There is talk President Lee Myung-bak, currently touring Europe, will make an official announcement during his visit to Sweden, which serves as the current chair nation of the EU. Although the administration is not revealing any concrete details, if you look at the draft agreement that has been unofficially confirmed, the content of the South Korea-EU FTA is just as worrisome as that found within the FTA with the U.S.

Throughout negotiations, the EU has demanded equal treatment as the U.S., and in the end, it appears they got it. In fact, in some sectors like pharmaceuticals and legal services, it seems they secured even greater openness. Overall the high-level and comprehensive South Korea-EU FTA gives the EU a foothold to maximize benefits in sectors like services, investment and copyrights in which they are competitive. On the other hand, South Korea has been unable to properly gain benefits on removing customs on TVs, automobiles and the like.

The draft of the South Korea-EU FTA also includes articles that were referred to as poisonous in the South Korea-U.S. FTA, including ratchets and guarantees of most-favored nation treatment. It also includes an article on pharmaceutical licensing, a fatally noxious article that will cause the price of medicines to rise. It also opens the door to imports of beef with a high risk of Mad Cow Disease from some EU nations by agreeing to open the market based on OIE standards. This shows that the belief that the South Korea-EU FTA, contrary to the South Korea-U.S. FTA is a “kind FTA” is surely mistaken.

If the South Korea-EU FTA is concluded like this, the shock to our economy will be severe. In the service sector alone, it is clear that the trade deficit with the EU, already at 6 billion dollars will increase. Also, thanks to concessions on technical standards issue as claimed by Europe, European car imports will become much easier. The breaking down of all sorts of standards in South Korea through the South Korea-EU FTA poses a serious problem from the perspective of future economic sovereignty. Despite this, the administration is keeping quiet details in the agreement and is negotiating behind closed doors. The administration should fully reveal in detail the content of the agreement, gather the opinions of interested parties and thoroughly examine the pluses and minuses of concluding the agreement.

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source: Hankyoreh