The UK-South Korea free trade agreement is good news but the government must ensure greater transparency going forwardsby Rita Donaghy / November 6, 2019 / Leave a comment
My committee is responsible for scrutinising matters relating to the EU’s single market, often resulting in the publication of reports by the House of Lords main EU Select Committee. We have covered various exit-related matters, including a recent inquiry on UK-EU transport and what might happen in the event of no deal.
One of our scrutiny jobs has been to look at a number of treaties between the UK and other countries, which will come into force in the event of the UK’s exit from the EU. We look at matters such as whether existing rights are protected and how standards will be recognised and maintained. One recent example was the new free trade agreement (FTA) between the EU and South Korea.
What might seem like a rather dry subject raises issues concerning future trade policies and the extent of parliamentary scrutiny. We need a comprehensive assessment of any impact such FTAs may have on trade and to make sure UK stakeholders will not lose out. Further, it is vital that we know more about what the government’s strategy will be to ensure maximum transparency and clarity to parliament, as well as to the devolved administrations.
As an EU member state, the UK is party to the FTA between the EU and South Korea. The new FTA seeks to “rollover” the effects in a bilateral context, from the point at which the EU-Korea agreement ceases to apply to the UK. The UK and South Korea have also agreed a joint statement on shared values such as the rule of law, good governance, human rights including gender equality, and fundamental freedoms.
The FTA is to be welcomed. South Korea accounts for 1.1 per cent of total UK trade, made up of £10.5bn in goods and £4.1bn in services and this is growing. Top goods exports to South Korea are mineral fuels or oils, machinery and mechanical appliances and vehicles. We also export legal services, accounting and management consulting and travel services. The FTA is therefore politically important and raises various questions of public policy and parliamentary accountability.
On the latter, treaties are negotiated, signed and ratified by the government. Parliament’s scrutiny role is set out under the Constitutional Reform and Governance…