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FTA Talks Jolted by US Demand on Beef Imports

Posted November. 11, 2010 11:21,   


Korea and the U.S. were expected to announce Thursday a compromise on contentious issues in their free trade agreement, but an unexpected twist appeared in the negotiations.

In a meeting of trade ministers Wednesday, both sides nearly saw the negotiations collapse over a renewed U.S. demand for expanding U.S. beef imports in Korea. This latest round of talks seems to show that a successful conclusion of the negotiations is not guaranteed.

For the third day, Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk sparred over remaining contentious items, including reflecting elements of their consent in the agreement and specific measures on resolving inequity in automotive trade. They reportedly failed to reach an agreement, however.

Washington suddenly demanded the expansion of U.S. beef imports in Korea, something which worried Seoul on the final day of the negotiations. In response, Korea expressed a stern stance suggesting that it cannot continue negotiations if the U.S. remains “hard-headed.”

As a result, the mood of the negotiations cooled off instantly.

Seoul changed its stance to say that if it must make significant “changes” to the original agreement in the automotive sector, an area in which Korea is considered to have gained the upper hand, it will ask for U.S. concessions in pharmaceuticals and agriculture, two areas in which Seoul is known to have gotten the short end of the stick.

So unless one side makes significant concessions within the “narrow scope” of negotiations limited only to the automotive sector, the leaders of the two countries will unlikely seal the deal at their summit Thursday.