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Final Round of ROK-U.S. FTA Negotiations Set

Posted March. 21, 2007 07:12,   


The final round of ROK-US FTA negotiations will begin on March 26 in Seoul.

ROK-U.S. FTA Chief Planner Lee Hye-min of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a press conference at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, the venue for the high-level FTA negotiations, on March 19, “Both sides agreed to make a comprehensive settlement starting March 26, as ministerial meetings will continue to the deadline.” The deadline is 6:00 P.M March 30 (U.S. local time) and 7:00 A.M March 31 (Korean local time), and the talks will be held under the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) granted to the Bush administration by the U.S. Congress.

South Korea’s Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong and Deputy United States Trade Representative Karan Bhatia will attend this meeting and continue negotiations. Some say the attendance of an American deputy representative, a lower official level than Kim, may undermine the formality of the meeting.

But a Korean government official said, “Trade representative Susan Schwab cannot leave Washington as she is scheduled to meet U.S. congressmen. It is the first time for the U.S. to hold the last round of negotiations in a partner’s country, which is meaningful.”

In the meantime, a high-level trade meeting has been going on in Washington since March 19. Officials from the meeting failed to reach an agreement despite concessions on key issues, including opening media markets, deciding on an origin for products made by the Gaesong Industrial Complex, and expansion of the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) protection period.

Lee said, “Due to differences over automobiles and agriculture, issues could remain through the upcoming ministerial meeting. Moreover, we are not in the position to talk about ongoing progress in the fields of broadcasting and telecommunication, trade remedies, and textiles.”

High-level negotiations over textiles were held in the U.S. trade representative’s annex in Washington on March 20 in a separate meeting, in which Vice Minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy Lee Jae-hoon and Special Textile Negotiator and USTR Special Textile Negotiator Scott Quesenberry met. The negotiations failed to iron disagreements.

High-level meetings over agriculture also confirmed both sides’ disagreements with each other. A two-day meeting was held in the Gwacheon Government Complex, in Korea. Seoul`s Assistant Agriculture Minister Min Dong-seok and USTR chief agricultural negotiator Richard Crowder took part.

The U.S delegates demanded complete approval of U.S. beef imports with bone, saying that, “The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) General Assembly in May will grant U.S. beef ‘controlled risk’ status.”

The Korean side responded, “Despite the OIE’s risk assessment finding, it is the right of an importing country to make a risk assessment on its own. It is appropriate for Korea to return packages containing beef with bone to the U.S.”

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