The 2012/06/18 at 07:00
Commerce International: What is the role of your organisation?
Jean-Luc Valério: “The EUCCK is a non-profit organisation representing the voice of the European Union business community on the Korean territory. It was founded in 1986 with the financial support of the European Commission. Ever since, it has evolved independently on the economic level, without any outside help. We currently have some 850 member companies representing around 280,000 employees in South Korea. These companies are from the manufacturing sector, financial services, the automobile industry and many other streams such as real estate and the pharmaceutical industry. We accompany and support the development of exchanges between the country and the EU.”
What difficulties do European companies in South Korea encounter?
J-L. V.: “Regulations in force are so restrictive and difficult to interpret that businesses often find themselves unable to respect laws scrupulously. In this climate of opacity and obligation, corruption has become a deep problem that the Korean government should tackle more heavy-handedly. This struggle is all the more essential in that it constitutes a major criterion for decisions made by foreign investors. We wish to draw attention to the fact that regulations that are not crucial may be a source of corruption. South Korea is one of the most profitable markets for local and foreign businesses. But the discovery of Western brands and products by the country’s consumers remains quite recent. European companies may therefore face problems of visibility, namely SMEs. We encourage them to take part in numerous existing events and trade fairs, to raise publicity on their offers. The setting up of joint ventures or cooperative partnerships for R&D is another good solution for getting around this difficulty.”
What is your opinion on the free-trade agreement between South Korea and the EU, in force since 1 July 2011?
J-L. V.: “This agreement is the most ambitious ever to be negotiated with the EU. It allows facilitated access to the Korean market of goods and services, and introduces important clauses relating to the respect of intellectual property rights, social and environmental issues. The agreement has largely been hailed by the European business community. Its application brings strong development potential in certain domains such as mass retailing, transport or financial services. European exporters of pharmaceutical products, electronics, and industrial machines, carry out interesting operations and should profit from this change. The abolition of customs fees will also be a source of considerable benefits for the export of chemical products, automobiles or metallurgical products. We receive requests from many companies from these sectors and devote a great deal of energy to supporting them and answering their questions.”
How does the cultural divide between South Korea and Europe stand?
J-L. V.: “There are of course enormous cultural differences, but the situation in this domain is much more serene than at the end of the 20th century. The South Koreans have learned to adapt to Western business culture. They have drawn inspiration from different work reflexes and other ways of thinking. Many Korean businesses have expanded internationally, which has contributed to improving this openness. This positive trend is also valid for European businesses with regard to their Korean partners.”
Can the presidential election taking place in a few months in South Korea have an impact on future exchanges with the EU?
J-L. V.: “No. It will not affect the state of economic relations between South Korea and European countries in any way. The dominant political parties are all conscious of the mutual benefit represented by this relationship. There may be modifications that stem more from the domestic economic policy, but there will be no impact on foreign relations.”