South Korea, EFTA States Discuss Broader Free Trade Deal

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

14 March 2016

Delegations from the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member states and South Korea convened in Seoul on March 11, 2016, for their fifth Joint Committee meeting under the EFTA-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The previous day, in preparation for the Joint Committee, experts on customs and origin matters had reviewed the implementation of the FTA in a dedicated Subcommittee meeting.

In the Joint Committee, delegations discussed the status of bilateral trade and noted growth in trade flows between the EFTA states – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland – and Korea since the entry into force of the FTA.

The Committee also reviewed and discussed possible “further developments” in issues related to rules of origin; market access for industrial, agricultural, and fisheries products; trade in services; investment; technical barriers to trade; sanitary and phytosanitary measures; trade remedies; trade and sustainable development; and procedures for the implementation of Joint Committee decisions.

The EFTA-Korea FTA came into force in 2006. Under the agreement, the EFTA states agreed to immediately terminate tariffs on all imports from South Korea, while Korea agreed to eliminate tariffs on 99.1 percent of imports from EFTA countries over a period of 10 years following the agreement’s entry into force.

EFTA said that total merchandise trade between the EFTA states and South Korea stood at USD9bn in 2015. The Association’s leading exports to South Korea include watches, pharmaceuticals, and electrical machinery, while the main import items from South Korea were ships, boats, and floating structures, electrical machinery, and vehicles. Trade in services and foreign direct investment are also substantial between EFTA and South Korea, EFTA said.

The Joint Committee agreed to hold its next meeting in Geneva in the first half of 2018.

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