Korea and Canada are familiar friends, especially when it comes to trade. The friendship, as we all know from our life experiences, is not born out of vacuum, but built through repeated interactions, common interests and mutual efforts.
Look around you and into your friends list on the facebook, and make a count of how many of your “friends” are people who you never met or spoke. The State-to-State relationship is no different. People need to meet, whether the people involved are political decision makers, business representatives, sports players, tourists or government bureaucrats.
So, the forum matters, often as much as the substantive discussions that take place within one.
Korea and Canada are bound in numerous forums. One of the most ancient and ritual meeting place for Korea and Canada has been the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) what is now known as the World Trade Organization (WTO).
As some of history buffs among the audience already know, multilateral trade regulation was conceived as a part of the “new world order” being constructed after the World War II. It is no coincidence that the early name for this institution was “International Trade Organization” (ITO) – trade “International” for the synonym “World”, then you get the WTO.
Of course, the ITO was never realized (primarily due to the refusal to ratify by a certain State). Only part of the Agreement, called GATT, survived as a “provisional” application. One of many characteristics of GATT as an institution in its first “provisional” application in 1948 was its limitedness. The original membership, who were called the “CONTRACTING PARTIES” (capital letters in original), consisted of 23 founding States, which includes Canada.
Korea first emerged into the GATT arena during the Kennedy Round, which took place from 1964 to 1967. Through the Kennedy Round, Korea conceded to reduce tariffs on number of products, and in turn, succeeded in obtaining more than 22 concessions from number of countries, including Canada . In 1967, Korea signed the GATT and became one of the “CONTRACTING PARTIES”.
It is worth re-emphasizing the fact that the original GATT was a fairly closed group until the Kennedy Round. It is apparent that Korea was an eager participant and jumped onto the boat as soon as feasible and capable. Today, a Korean member proudly sits among the members of the WTO Appellate Body . In addition, Korean Minister Taeho Bark has entered into the race to replace the current Director General of the WTO in 2013.
Meeting of the minds, is what I would call. Canada, as an inaugural member of the GATT and WTO, has always been a fan of open-door policy when it comes to the trade (of course, I am generalizing; there are and have been different aspects and or different times in which Canada has taken various positions). Korea has also subscribed to the freer movement and exchange of fruits of people’s hard work and skills (again, in general). The Korea-Canada relationship has been, at least partly, made possible because of this shared value. The possibility manifested into the reality through the history of negotiations and meetings, such as ones held throughout the history if the WTO.