Tribune. This is a first: the European Commission launched on 17 December 2018 the dispute settlement procedure provided for in the Trade and Sustainable Development (CSD) chapter of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the European Union (EU) and South Korea, a chapter whose job is to ensure the protection of workers' rights. Brussels accuses Seoul of failing to respect its commitments in this area, and the procedure will make it possible to take stock of this question of law. Above all, the handling of this dispute will make it possible to judge the effectiveness of the mechanisms envisaged within the CSD chapters to protect workers, on the eve of possible negotiations between the EU-27 and the United Kingdom on the future of their commercial relations.
The EU-South Korea FTA, which entered into force in 2011, is the first trade agreement concluded by the EU which includes a chapter on trade and sustainable development. In addition to setting certain standards in the field of labor law, this chapter contains a procedure for settling disputes in the event of disputes between the contracting parties. This is the procedure that the Commission initiated. She makes two complaints against the South Korean authorities.
The EU-South Korea Agreement, which entered into force in 2011, is the first trade agreement concluded by the EU which includes a chapter on trade and sustainable development
First, it accuses them of failing to comply with the obligation to "respect […] in their laws and practices, fundamental rights principles [au travail] ". Brussels more specifically attacks several laws adopted by Seoul that violate "Freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining". Secondly, the Commission criticizes its partner for failing to ratify four fundamental International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions, which include freedom of association and the abolition of forced labor, despite the fact that the obligation to deploy "Continued and sustained efforts to ratify the fundamental ILO Conventions". Faced with this double accusation, Seoul should refer firstly to its sovereign right to regulate social legislation, and secondly to the fact that non-ratification of the relevant conventions does not entail ipso facto a breach of the obligation in question.