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Korea-EU FTA Talks Run into Stumbling Block

Posted November. 24, 2007 03:54,   


The outlook for the early settlement of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Korea and the European Union remains murky as the fifth round of negotiations concluded without being able to bridge the gap between the two sides’ positions on the stickiest issues.

“The remaining tasks are to uncover and improve a balance point on issues such as the country of origin labeling rule, auto-related technical standards, and tariff concessions on goods, which is the most important issue,” stated Kim Han-soo, Seoul`s chief negotiator for the talks, on Thursday, which was the fourth day of the free trade negotiations held in Brussels.

Although the three issues that Kim addressed above were the three key agenda items indicating the possibility of an early settlement, the two sides failed to narrow their differences.

Korea proposed further tariff concessions, but negotiations made little progress due to the EU’s negative reaction to the proposal. In particular, the EU said that Korea’s demand to move up the timetable to abolish tariffs on Korean automobiles and steel products are “excessive.” However, the two sides agreed to begin negotiations on some manufactured products and to exchange written requests until the next round of negotiations takes place.

Regarding whether to recognize the products of the Gaesong Industrial Park as Korean-made, the EU reportedly said, “It will not be difficult to resolve the problem once a political decision is made.”

Kim also expressed the possibility of assuming extensive negotiations. “If we can get the same quality of a product, the early settlement is preferred. However, I will make sure not to produce a bad product because of the time factor,” Kim added.

Meanwhile, Garcia Bercero, Brussels` chief negotiator for the talks, pressured the Korean delegation. “Although there has been progress in a number of areas, there remain thorny issues that make further negotiations difficult to move forward, such as the issues of automobiles, tariffs on goods and the origin labeling rule,” Garcia told reporters on Friday morning.

The sixth round of negotiations will be held in Seoul from January 21 to 25, 2008.