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6th Round of Korea-U.S. FTA Talks End

Posted January. 20, 2007 04:59,   


The sixth round of talks in the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement (FTA), which started on January 15, came to an end on Friday, January 19. As both countries held a series of high-level meetings on the sidelines of group negotiations, they saw partial progress made in the goods section by agreeing to abolish 99% of tariffs on those items within 10 years, but there was no notable result in contentious areas including automobiles, pharmaceuticals and trade remedies.

U.S. chief negotiator Wendy Cutler told the press at the Shilla Hotel, where the negotiations took place, “It was regrettable not to have patched up differences in automobiles and pharmaceuticals as hoped, but that there is no breakthrough to be announced shouldn’t be necessarily interpreted as something negative.”

Cutler’s remark indicates that the U.S. request for a change in Korea’s tax code regarding cars has been accepted and both sides have managed to narrow down their differences through the behind-the-scenes meetings on pharmaceuticals.

However, as the U.S. remains on the offensive by pressuring Korea to resume U.S. beef imports, which is not up for the FTA negotiation, it is unlikely that the upcoming seventh round of the FTA negotiations will cut a complete deal.

Korea’s chief negotiator Kim Jong-hun hinted at a remaining hurdle to overcome, saying, “We have been standing ten steps away from each other and have taken four steps forward. But by failing to make one more step forward, we both could see everything blown away.”

Meanwhile, regarding the leak of a confidential document containing negotiation strategies submitted to the National Assembly by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the committee to support a successful conclusion of the Korea-U.S. FTA announced that it will find out who leaked the document and determine whether the leakage is legal, saying, “Checks and balances and even criticism should not cross the line.”

Korea and the U.S. are to have the seventh round of the FTA talks in the U.S. between February 11 and 14.