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ECCK pushes for an update to EU-Korea FTA

Nov 14,2017

The European Chamber of Commerce in Korea (ECCK) stressed the necessity of amending the 6-year-old free trade agreement between Korea and the European Union on Monday.

“Although the EU and Korea governments talk about issues on regular meetings, the FTA from time to time needs drastic updates because it was developed about six to seven years ago,” said Christoph Heider, ECCK’s president at a press event held Monday in central Seoul. “And the Industry 4.0 is looking around the corner, so there must be many new things to develop.”

Heider said that the two partners had discussed the necessity for an amendment package on the agreements in 2015, but there had been no detailed negotiations since then.

However, he made it clear that the organization was “not requesting a renegotiation on the FTA,” but suggesting ways to make it “a better one for both sides.”

The EU and the non-profit organization assessed the agreement between the two as a successful one. Ambassador Michael Reiterer of the EU’s delegation to Korea emphasized that it’s important that Korean companies get to know more about the agreement as “20 percent [of those who can] are not claiming their benefits.”

The comments came during a press event held in celebration of the publishing of the ECCK White Paper 2017. Released for the third time this year, the annual report collected 90 issues and policy recommendations from 16 committees inside the ECCK, each comprised of member companies from different industries including automotive, intellectual property rights and pharmaceuticals.

The paper was delivered to officials from both the EU and Korean government. Among the issues raised was the Korean government’s regulation on minimum ground clearance, which forces vehicles to have at least a gap of at least 120 millimeters (4.7 inches) between a car and the ground. The paper remarked that this may hinder sales of both European and American cars as Korea is the only country that still has such a limit, according to the ECCK.

The paper also contained concerns on the low awareness of intellectual property in Korea, for which it proposed higher sentences regarding counterfeiting. It pointed out that in Korea, fines are imposed on counterfeiters that would get actual prison time in places like France, Hong Kong and Singapore.

The paper will be discussed at a meeting among government officials from both sides, including Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong, scheduled to take place in Brussels on Dec. 7.

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]