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USTR Urges Further Opening of Korean Car Market

Posted November. 07, 2009 08:40,   


U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk yesterday urged Korea to open its car market further to American imports.

His comment could hamper the prospects of U.S. congressional ratification of the bilateral free trade agreement signed with Korea in 2007.

Kirk said Korea should further open up its car market before urging U.S. President Barack Obama to send the agreement to Congress for ratification.

In a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, Kirk said, “Our market is open to Korean cars,” adding, “All we’re asking for is the same for the American auto industry.”

His comment is seen as pouring cold water on the Korean government’s expectation that Obama’s visit to Seoul next week will speed up the ratification process.

Reflecting the opinion of the U.S. Democratic Party, Kirk implied that the accord will be put to a congressional vote only if Korea further opens its market to American cars.

He also brought up non-tariff barriers to other American goods in Korea such as beef, and that measures to tackle this are being drawn up.

Next week in Singapore, Kirk will hold talks with Korea to convey the U.S. stance on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. He declined to go into details of the U.S. request for a further opening of Korea’s markets.

He said such matters should be dealt with because political and economic relations between the two countries are very important. “For bilateral relations to move forward, broad political support is necessary,” he said.

American automakers sold about 7,000 vehicles in Korea last year, while the Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group of Korea sold more than 53,000 in the U.S. market last month alone.

The trade agreement is on the backburner in favor of other priorities such as U.S. health care reform, fighting climate change, and dispatching more troops to Afghanistan.

American carmakers immediately welcomed Kirk’s comment. Ford Motor Vice President Steve Biegun said he thanks President Obama’s efforts to correct the imbalance in auto trade with Korea before ratifying the agreement.