A new free trade deal between Europe and South Korea is closer but still proving elusive.
EU officials were in Seoul on Saturday after finishing their Russian summit, trying to seal an agreement worth more than 70 billion euros. Both sides talked up progress made but the Czech president, representing the EU, admitted the deal would have to wait a little longer. Vaclav Klaus said: “There are some residual issues which have to be solved. They are quite sensitive for both parts of the negotiating table so it will not be signed before the end of the (Czech) EU presidency in June. Definitely not. I’m sorry to say that.” The EU is South Korea’s biggest foreign investor, putting over 40 billion dollars into its economy in 2007. The bloc is also Seoul’s second biggest trade partner, with around 90 billion dollars changing hands last year. The main obstacle to a free trade deal is the so-called “duty drawback.” It allows South Korean car-makers to be reimbursed import duties on Chinese-made car parts for vehicles destined for Europe. European manufacturers see this as an unfair advantage.