Stockholm, 3 June 2009 - Swedish Trade Minister Ewa Björling and EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton met in Stockholm to discuss trade priorities for the upcoming Swedish Presidency of the European Union. They expressed their strong commitment to completing a range of important bilateral trade deals with third countries, including the ambitious free trade agreement with South Korea. They also discussed the heightened value of the Doha Round of world trade talks in the current economic downturn, as well as talking about a broad range of other trade issues.
Minister Björling said: “In this present time of economic downturn it is more important than ever to make real progress on a number of important trade issues. I am looking forward to work closely with the Commission on important free trade agreements with South Korea, the GCC, Central America, the Andean countries and other regions, and on moving the Doha Round forward. This is an essential step on the road to economic recovery.”
Commissioner Ashton said: “I welcome the strong backing of the upcoming Swedish presidency for our positive trade agenda. Our first priority is to close the ambitious and valuable free trade agreement with South Korea. I believe that we can solve the outstanding issues and get a deal that will benefit a wide range of European industries.”
Amongst other topics, Minister Björling and Commissioner Ashton discussed the following:
They agreed that fighting protectionism and finding new opportunities for trade is important in this economic downturn. Trade will drive recovery.
Improved market access, especially by removing non-tariff barriers, is important to ensure that European companies can compete fairly in third markets.
The value of the Doha Round of world trade talks is heightened in the current downturn, and a deal would be the best possible boost for the global economy.
Aside from South Korea, there are other valuable free trade agreements being negotiated including with Central America, the Andean Community, India, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the ASEAN group of Asian countries.
The accession of Russia to the WTO is an important goal. One of the key outstanding issues that need to be dealt with is Russian export duties on timber.
Increased trade in climate-friendly goods, services and technologies will play an increasingly important role in fighting climate change.
Trade is an important component of development strategies. The European Union has shown flexibility in moving the process forward on Economic Partnership Agreements with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.
Background on the EU-South Korea FTA:
Negotiations on a EU-South Korea free trade agreement (FTA) form part of a trade agenda that seeks to provide new exporting opportunities for European business. The FTA currently under negotiation is part of a new generation of trade agreements that focus on countries offering a high exporting potential, but also considerable barriers to entry. After two years of negotiations, a highly ambitious FTA with Korea is within reach. force.Concluding FTA negotiations with Korea underlines the EU’s commitment to open markets as one policy response to the current difficult economic environment.
The Korean market is important for EU exporters, with high annual growth rates, even though significant trade barriers remain. Total trade in goods and services between Korea and the EU reached some €75 bn (2007). Korea is our 4th largest trading partner outside Europe, absorbing €25 bn worth of EU goods and well over €6 bn of services exports in 2007. The EU has also the largest stock of investment in Korea.