The largest noodle in the bowl


Last week, FleishmanHillard Brussels gathered Brussels’ trade community together for a roundtable discussion on the benefits and drawbacks of the EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Almost two years after its entry into force, this seemed a good time to take stock.

Speakers Peter Berz, currently heading up the unit in charge of trade relations with the Far East at the European Commission, and Prof. Dong-Sung Cho, Professor of Strategy, International Business and Design at Seoul National University, provided their insights into how the trade deal has impacted our respective economies.

The discussions swiftly began to focus on the concrete lessons that could be drawn from the practical implementation of the Agreement – the key question emerging: how far has the EU-South Korea FTA lived up to expectations?

The consensus in the room was that it certainly has… to a certain extent. With EU exporters estimated to save €1.6 billion annually on eliminated import duties, the EU-South Korea FTA boasts the most ambitious tariff elimination achieved in any of the bilateral EU FTAs. It also aims to address one the most long-standing challenges EU exporters have been facing in critical sectors (electronics, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and the automotive sector): Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs).

The trade deals with the US and Japan at the forefront of the EU’s trade agenda only confirm the current appetite for bilateral trade agreements across the globe.

The EU’s plate is pretty full up with upcoming trade negotiations. So much so, it will be critical for both policy-makers and industry to ensure that this intricate “noodle bowl” of trade agreements brings palpable economic benefits and regulatory convergence. As a landmark case, the EU-South Korea FTA remains, so far, the largest European “noodle” in this bowl.

Fred Seeger, Francesca Adurno and Roisin Carlos