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'Gateway to Korea' opens for EU firms

The European Union delegation held a symposium last week to launch the “EU Gateway to Korea” program, aimed at harnessing innovative partnerships between European and Korean enterprises.

Funded by the 28-member supranational body, business missions comprised of small and-medium-sized enterprises will visit Korea from 2016 to 2020. They cover technologies in the five industries of green energy, health care and medical, water and environment, food and beverage and construction and building.

Seeking to foster economic collaboration, the platform will offer insight into global industrial trends and advanced European products and technologies. 

European Union Ambassador Gerhard Sabathil (center) speaks beside Korea’s Deputy Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Lee In-ho (right) and Paolo Caridi the head of the EU’s trade section, at the launch ceremony of “EU Gateway to Korea” at the Korea Press Center on Wednesday. (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)
European Union Ambassador Gerhard Sabathil (center) speaks beside Korea’s Deputy Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Lee In-ho (right) and Paolo Caridi the head of the EU’s trade section, at the launch ceremony of “EU Gateway to Korea” at the Korea Press Center on Wednesday. (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)

The initiative, running for the second time in Korea, aims to bolster the EU’s engagement with Asia’s fourth-largest economy. It also operates in Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines, and is piloted in China.

First introduced to Korea from 2009 to 2014, representatives of 350 European companies participated in 15 missions that generated over 6,400 meetings with Korean counterparts.

“Over the last decade, many seeds of trade and investment have been sown into the fertile soils of Korea and Europe, and many have grown into beautiful trees,” European Union Ambassador Gerhard Sabathil said in a speech at the launch event Wednesday. “Sowing seeds into our economies and sharing our prosperities are a fundamental part of the EU-Korea partnership.”

Noting the bilateral relationship is “at its best when our economies are vibrant, resilient and growing,” the envoy said both sides should create more well-paying jobs, lower the cost of goods, give more choices to consumers and promote a dynamic economy.

Since the EU-Korea free trade agreement came into force in 2011, bilateral trade has increased over 30 percent to 90 billion euros ($101 billion). Korea is the EU’s eighth-largest trade partner and the ninth largest export market, ahead of India and Brazil.

For Korea, the EU is the second-largest importing partner and the third-largest export market. It is the largest investor in the country ahead of the U.S. and Japan. European investment surged over 30 percent to 44 billion euros in 2014, more than one-fifth of all foreign direct investment in Korea. 

European Union Ambassador Gerhard Sabathil (Joel Lee / The Korea Herald)
European Union Ambassador Gerhard Sabathil (Joel Lee / The Korea Herald)

“With the Gateway to Korea program, we will bring over 1,000 companies, most of which are SMEs that account for 99 percent of all enterprises in the EU,” he stressed. “They are key drivers of growth and employment, entrepreneurship, innovation and competition.”

Creating a greener and more sustainable economy has been EU’s priority for many years, he added, mentioning its firm manufacturing capacities, advanced research strengths and proactive climate policies at both continental and national levels.

“Thanks to these efforts, Europe has been a global heavyweight in environmental protection, pollution reduction and climate change adaptation,” Sabathil underlined. “This has been the result of not only our pioneering policies, but a pragmatic understanding by our companies that embraced these policies as opportunities rather than burdens for their growth and innovation. This has allowed a virtuous cycle.”

Highlighting the Paris Climate Agreement that was adopted in France last December -- the first universal accord to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels -- the diplomat said the program offered channels to meet the ambitious climate targets, while boosting growth and employment through collaboration.

European firms are active in renewable energy sectors of photovoltaics, biomass combustion, offshore and onshore wind and ocean wave power and hydrokinetics, according to the ambassador.

Lee In-ho, Korea’s deputy minister of trade, industry and energy, said in a speech that both sides need a “new momentum” in their economic relations.

Expanding trade and investment in renewable energy, bio-health and medical equipment, eco-friendly food and beverage, information and communications technology and cutting-edge new materials can leap forward the bilateral cooperation, alongside finance, cultural contents, education and other high-value-added services, he added.

“The global economy is in dire straits, but if the EU and Korea collaborate using our innovation and dynamism, we will generate new growth to steer out of the crisis,” he said. “Using our quality workforce and institutional and industrial capacities, Korea can bridge the economies of Asia and Europe.”

While pointing out that Korea will continue its reform efforts in labor, finance, education and government, Lee said Seoul will strive to restructure its major industries and facilitate a transition toward a knowledge-based economy.

A total of 20 business missions, each with up to 50 companies, are scheduled to visit Korea. The delegation for green energy technologies will visit in July; organic food and beverage technologies in November; construction and building technologies in February 2017; health care and medical technologies in March next year; and environment and water technologies in July.

The first mission will be held at the Coex InterContinental Hotel in Seoul from July 5-6, bringing firms from 15 nations that specialize in renewable energy generation, management and control systems and electric vehicles.

By Joel Lee (joel@heraldcorp.com)

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