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Panel of experts confirms the Republic of Korea is in breach of labour commitments under our trade agreement

EU Reporter Correspondent



The panel report published today (25 January) confirms the EU's concerns that the Republic of Korea has not acted consistently with its trade and sustainable development obligations under the EU-Republic of Korea trade agreement. The independent panel concluded that the Republic of Korea needs to adjust its labour laws and practices and to continue swiftly the process of ratifying four fundamental International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions in order to comply with the agreement.

Executive Vice President and Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said: “This panel ruling shows the effectiveness of our cooperation-based approach to trade and sustainable development. We have closely engaged with our Korean partners for some years, and the panel of experts process led to concrete actions by Korea. We will be working closely with Korea to ensure it effectively implements commitments on workers' rights.”

Findings of the panel

The panel of experts appointed by the Republic of Korea and the EU established that the Republic of Korea needs to adjust its labour laws and practices to comply with the principle of freedom of association.

The experts also agreed that the commitment to take steps towards the ratification of fundamental ILO Conventions requires ongoing and substantial efforts.

Finally, the panel confirmed the EU's arguments that the two commitments at issue are legally binding and have to be respected regardless of their effect on trade.

Background of the panel

The dispute settlement procedure under the Trade and Sustainable Development Chapter of the EU-Republic of Korea trade agreement was initiated after previous efforts failed to provide a satisfactory solution.

In the EU-Republic of Korea trade agreement, both sides committed to respect international core labour rights and standards. This includes setting domestic legal guarantees to comply with the principles of the core labour standards as defined by the ILO, including the freedom of association. Commitments also include taking continued and sustained efforts towards ratifying the ILO fundamental conventions.

The EU considered that, since the entry into force of the agreement, the actions taken by Republic of Korea to implement these provisions remained insufficient. As a consequence, the EU requested a panel of experts to examine the matters that have not been satisfactorily addressed through government consultations.

The EU's policy on trade and sustainable development

The EU has been stepping up its efforts to ensure that its trading partners fulfil the trade and sustainable development commitments included their trade agreements with the EU. This objective was also set out in the Commission's 15-Point TSD Action Plan and has continued with the appointment of the Chief Trade Enforcement Officer and the announcement of the Single Entry Point where stakeholders can raise concerns as to implementation of these chapters.

The EU-Republic of Korea trade agreement is the EU's first ‘new generation' comprehensive trade agreement that includes a trade and sustainable development chapter, with a number of legally binding commitments on labour and environmental governance. Since then, all EU trade agreements contain such commitments, including the agreements in place with Canada, Japan, Singapore and Vietnam and the recently concluded negotiations with Mexico, Mercosur and the United Kingdom, as well as the investment deal with China.

More information

Panel report

EU-Republic of Korea dispute settlement case

More information on trade and sustainable development



EU-Republic of Korea leaders' videoconference: Co-operation, solidarity and sustainability at the heart of a joint response to the #Coronavirus pandemic

EU Reporter Correspondent



On 30 June, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel, together with High Representative/Vice President Josep Borrell, held a video conference with the President of the Republic of Korea, Moon Jae-in (pictured).

The leaders issued a joint press release outlining the outcomes of the video conference. The meeting was an opportunity for the leaders to discuss the response to the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in terms of socio-economic recovery, research and vaccine development and deployment, support to vulnerable populations, and lessons learnt. At the press conference following the leaders' video conference, President von der Leyen said:  “In times of an unprecedented global health crisis, we need countries to come together, to work together, and to achieve together. It was important to exchange experiences and best practice with the Republic of Korea about the pandemic; even more so given Korea's very innovative and successful approach to slowing it down.”

The leaders also discussed ways to strengthen the EU-Republic of Korea strategic partnership, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2020, and benefits from a wide-reaching political framework agreement, a free trade agreement, and an agreement enabling the Republic of Korea's participation in EU crisis management operations. Finally, the leaders discussed international and regional issues, particularly efforts to bring peace and security to the Korean Peninsula.

President von der Leyen said: “The intensity and the level of our cooperation is among the highest that we have with any country in the world. Today was an important moment to reaffirm our joint commitment to working together across all areas of our partnership.”

joint press release and the full remarks of President von der Leyen at the press conference are available online, while more information on EU-Republic of Korea relations is available in a dedicated factsheet and on the website of the EU Delegation in Seoul.

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EU-Republic of #Korea leaders' videoconference: Focus on the coronavirus response and strengthening bilateral co-operation

EU Reporter Correspondent



Today (30 June) Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel, together with High Representative/Vice President Josep Borrell, will hold a videoconference with the President of the Republic of Korea, Moon Jae-in. The leaders will exchange views on the respective responses to the coronavirus pandemic, including as regards lessons learned to strengthen resilience, cooperation in research and vaccine development, and a green socio-economic recovery.

In this context, they are likely to confirm the importance they attach to effective multilateralism and the rules-based international order. The leaders will discuss areas related to the EU-Republic of Korea bilateral strategic partnership, including trade relations under the EU-Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement. The leaders are also expected to touch on international and regional security matters, including the shared objective of building trust and establishing lasting peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, free of nuclear weapons.

A joint press conference of President von der Leyen and President Michel will take place upon conclusion of the videoconference, at 10h CEST, and will be available to watch live on EbS. More information on the Leaders' meeting is available on the website. More information on EU-Republic of Korea relations is available on the website of the EU Delegation in Seoul.

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#Kazakhstan bars entry to South Korean nationals due to #Coronavirus

Guest contributor



Kazakhstan will bar entry to nationals of South Korea from March 8 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, deputy industry minister Berik Kamaliyev said on Thursday (5 March), writes Tamara Vaal.

Health Care Minister Yelzhan Birtanov told the same briefing that the Central Asian nation stood ready to deport foreigners who arrived from South Korea and other countries such as China from where it has banned nationals from entering Kazakhstan due to the virus.

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