S&Ds urge Commission to launch government consultations with Korea to address failures on worker’s rights

South Korean and EU flags

Ahead of a plenary vote on a report taking stock of the free trade agreement with the Republic of Korea later today, the Socialists and Democrats call on the Commission to launch government consultations under the trade deal’s dispute settlement to address Korea’s failure to fully honour all of its commitments. While the trade deal has brought economic benefits, especially to European citizens and companies, Korea is lagging behind in implementing the Sustainable Development Chapter and ratifying International Labour Organization (ILO) core conventions.

Joachim Schuster, S&D spokesperson and MEP, said:

“Economically, the trade deal with Korea has been very beneficial especially to European citizens and companies. EU exports to Korea have risen by 55 per cent and EU companies have saved 2.8 billion in customs duties. Before the trade deal came into force five years ago, Europe had a trade deficit with Korea, now we are looking at a trade surplus.

“However, it is very worrying that Korea is still seriously lagging behind on labour rights. Contrary to its obligations arising from the trade deal, Korea has still not ratified the ILO core conventions. Lately, the situation even worsened when the police cracked-down and imprisoned trade union leaders following a protest. We urge the Commission to launch government consultations under the trade deal’s dispute settlement to address Korea’s failure to fully honour its commitments."

Alessia Mosca, S&D spokesperson on trade and MEP, said:

“The EU-Korea trade deal shows that it is not only necessary to effectively monitor the economic benefits of free trade agreements - which are largely positive for the EU economy in this case - but also their social and environmental effects. It is not enough to include standards in a treaty, we also have to make sure that our partners live up to their commitments.

“The recent jail sentences against trade unionists, the shortcomings in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Chapter, including the ratification of ILO core conventions, and the lack of an enforcement mechanism raise serious concerns we want to see addressed. A failure to act on the side of the Commission could undermine the effectiveness of Sustainable Development Chapters in EU’s trade agreements, and of the EU trade policy in general.”