|European Union Ambassador to Korea Michael Reiterer speaks during a recent roundtable meeting with the press in Seoul. / Delegation of EU|
Envoy underscores multilateralism amid escalating global trade war
By Yi Whan-woo
The United Kingdom's planned departure from the European Union (EU) on March 29 may push both sides into a "lose-lose" situation, European Union Ambassador to Korea Michael Reiterer has warned.
Speaking at a recent roundtable meeting with the press in Seoul, the top EU envoy to Korea also expressed concern about a global trade war, saying the EU would make every effort to prevent it.
"You will not be surprised that Brexit is an issue we're dealing with. The situation is changing every day ... and what is clear to my mind is, unfortunately, this is not what we would like to call a win-win situation but a typical lose-lose situation," he said.
His comment came after the U.K. Parliament voted 432 to 202 against Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal in January, pushing her to seek an alternative plan to avoid a "no-deal" Brexit.
Favored by ardent supporters of Brexit, a hard Brexit arrangement would likely see the U.K. give up full access to the single market and full access of the customs union along with the EU.
Ambassador Reiterer said the package deal between the EU and the U.K. would not be renegotiated, underscoring that it was negotiated in "a very concise and united manner."
May is seeking changes to her deal with Brussels after the U.K. Parliament rejected it by a record majority.
She has promised that, if she does not bring a revised deal by Feb. 13, lawmakers will debate Brexit on Feb. 14.
Commenting on a global trade war, notably between the United States and China, Ambassador Reiterer said, "The EU is a very strong supporter of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and multilateralism, and we would like to do everything to prevent trade wars."
"Trade wars are indeed not in the interests of anybody, and therefore, we stay focused on the WTO system and multilateralism," he added.
He speculated that Brexit and a slowing global economy would affect trade and investment between the EU and Korea.
"According to most forecasts, the global economy, including the Chinese economy, will not grow strongly in 2019, which will reflect on the bilateral relationship," he said. "Following Britain's departure, or Brexit, the EU will lose one member state, and this will be reflected in all statistics, including trade and investment."
EU exports to Korea grew by an average of 9 percent annually while Korea's exports to the EU increased by 3 percent annually, after a bilateral free trade agreement took effect in 2011.
In 2017, EU exports to Korea stood at 49.69 billion euros and Korean exports to the EU totaled 41.94 billion euros.
The EU is Korea's third-largest market after China and the U.S. Korea is the eighth-biggest market for the economic bloc.
The roundtable discussion involved other officials from the Delegation of the EU to Korea.
They gave a presentation on the EU's activities last year, such as the EU-Korea summit in Brussels and the 55 years of diplomatic relations between EU and Korea, as well as its 2019 goals on security, the refugee crisis, human rights, North Korea and climate change.