Message from the Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of Korea
Certainly, 2020 will appear in history books like the year of the COVID crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic is testing the resilience of our societies and of our economies. In this respect, the Republic of Korea (ROK) has established a reputation on the global stage by controlling the epidemic early on, owing to a set of measures including social-distancing, systematic testing and contact-tracing, but also by keeping its economy growing. The ROK economy contracted by just 1 percent last year, and the IMF forecasts the ROK economy to grow by 3.1 percent this year. As a result, the ROK is forecast to climb up two notches to the tenth position in OECD Gross Domestic Product rankings this year. The ROK has long been a role model for emerging economies. It is now increasingly becoming one for advanced economies. Let us hope that 2021 will be the year of the recovery, both on the sanitary and trade fronts. In this respect, I am very confident that the EU and the ROK will work together in this process towards a green and digital transition. In spite of the COVID crisis, 2020 was a good year for EU-ROK relations. In application of the FTA, the ROK took decisive steps in order to align its labour and trade union laws with ILO Conventions. In 2021, we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the EU-ROK FTA, which remains the bedrock of our economic relationship. Bilateral trade reached more than €90 billion in 2020. The ROK is the EU’s eighth largest export destination for goods, while the EU is Korea’s fourth largest export market after China, the ASEAN and the US, but before Japan. In addition, the EU remains the largest source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the ROK. Foreign-invested companies account for 19 percent of ROK exports and 7 percent of the country’s employment. As an export-led economy, the ROK is, however, increasingly turning its eyes towards growth reservoirs such as ASEAN countries. Hence, ROK’s accession to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and contemplation of an accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). A crisis always offers an opportunity. We need to rebuild better together and in a more open, sustainable and assertive way. Global challenges have led the EU to reflect upon a New Trade Policy centered around the concept of ‘Open Strategic Autonomy’. We are contemplating how to build resilient supply chains, based on diversification, while acknowledging the simple fact that we will not be able to manufacture everything locally. Our new trade strategy will fully support the green and digital transformations of our economy and lead global efforts to reform the World Trade Organization. It will also enhance our capacity to chart our own course and give us stronger tools to defend ourselves where others do not play by the rules. The ROK aspires to be, and to be seen as, a credible climate action advocate, while recognizing the challenge it faces in restructuring its energy mix and wider economy. I welcome very much the announcement by President Moon that the ROK commits to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. The Korean New Deal can certainly help to make the economy much stronger and more sustainable. Equally, harnessing the opportunities of the digital economy is critical to economic recovery. In this respect, as an innovation-driven economy and front-runner of the fourth industrial revolution, the ROK enjoys good product specialisation in strategic industry segments such as that of semiconductors. In both the green and digital transition, there are many opportunities for European businesses to expand their partnerships in the ROK. The EU will support our businesses and defend our interests, working alongside with ECCK. ECCK’s reference documents like the annual White Paper have become benchmarks of the ease of ‘doing business’ in the ROK. Rest assured that the EU Delegation and ECCK will continue their fruitful cooperation in 2021, for the greater benefit of European businesses and investors in the Republic of Korea.

H.E. Maria Castillo Fernandez
The European Union to the Republic of Korea