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Slow Going at 4th Round of FTA Talks

Posted October. 24, 2006 07:02,   


On October 23, the first day of the fourth round of the Korea-U.S. FTA negotiations, the two countries began discussing 12 areas including industrial products, agricultural products and textiles at Shilla Hotel in Jungmun resort complex on Jeju Island.

Before the talks, the Korean chief negotiator Kim Jong-hoon and his U.S. counterpart Wendy Cutler said that they expect to see a breakthrough during this round of negotiations.

Nevertheless, during the lunchtime after three hours’ negotiation, head negotiator Lee Hye-min shook her head as reporters asked about the negotiation atmosphere saying it was difficult. One negotiator said that the U.S. was still adhering to its conservative market opening proposals in most areas making the talks difficult.

Based on the already-exchanged tariff proposals, the two parties engaged in detailed discussions by different sectors and products. They have reportedly reached an agreement to adopt safeguard on agricultural products and textiles, which is an emergency measure to restrict excessive imports of certain items.

Out of the 284 items classified as sensitive agricultural products, Korea included some items, with relatively little impact from the FTA, in the list of items subject to tariff elimination. In return, Korea is known to have demanded the U.S. to expand its textile market opening.

So Korea is making partial concession in the agricultural sector, where the U.S. is aggressively pursuing market opening, instead seeking greater market opening in the U.S. for the textiles sector, where Korea has advantage over its counterpart.

Jeju governor Kim Tae-hwan met with the two countries’ chief negotiators yesterday afternoon and requested them to exclude orange and other citrus fruits from the negotiation. Cutler occasionally smiled and nodded while listening to Kim but did not give any response.

With regards to the problem of recognizing products made in Gaesong Industrial Complex as Korean products, she said that the Korea-U.S. FTA does not apply to regions outside the two countries, demonstrating a firmer stance after North Korea’s recent nuclear test.

There were a series of protests and press conferences voicing opposition to the FTA negotiations.

Chairman Moon Kyung-sik of Korea Advanced Farmers Federation and twenty other representatives of the Korean Alliance Against Korea-U.S. FTA held a press conference at the entrance of the Jungmun resort complex at 9:30 a.m. yesterday to urge for the suspension of the negotiations.

The Association of Korea Fisheries Business Leaders of Jeju Island staged a one-hour strike in the sea in front of Moseulpo with 40 fishing boats, and in the afternoon, 7,000 people gathered at Jungmun three-way junction for a Jeju farmers and fishers protest against the FTA negotiations.

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