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US: Visas ‘Irrelevant’ to Trade Talks

Posted June. 07, 2006 07:17,   


Wendy Cutler, the assistant US trade representative and chief negotiator to the South Korea-US FTA (KORUS FTA) talks, singled out agriculture, the automobile industry, and medicine as the key topics for negotiation on June 5.

Cutler told journalists her decision in a phone interview session after the morning’s negotiations.

On agriculture, Cutler said, “Agriculture is a difficult sector to handle. Rice will prove to be the most difficult to handle, and beef not much easier. We hope South Korea will resume imports of boneless meat.” She added, “Issues of sanitary quarantines will be dealt with by a separate group of negotiators.”

Cutler said the plan for rationalizing medical costs, outlined by the Ministry of Health and Welfare early this May, “do not help the talks very much,” and wished for “sincere negotiations.” The plan allows for the exclusion of medicine that is relatively expensive to its remedial efficacy from health insurance coverage, provoking opposition from American multinational medical firms whose R&D expenses account for the high drug costs.

Addressing the issue of screen quota reductions, Cutler said, “The South Korean government has already announced it will cut its local film quota in half, to be put into effect from July 1 this year. The U.S. does not plan to request further reductions.”

“The first meeting will focus on sorting out the differences between the drafts of the agenda by both sides, making adjustments on matters easier to handle, and in the following meetings, the main topics will be decided,” said Cutler regarding the first round of talks.

On the South Korean government’s efforts to be included in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, she replied that they were “irrelevant to the FTA talks.”

Seung-Ryun Kim srkim@donga.com