Go to contents

Korea-US Negotiations on Free Trade Deal Collapse

Posted November. 12, 2010 11:34,   


Korea and the U.S. failed to agree on their free trade agreement by the initial deadline of Thursday as set by their leaders in additional negotiations.

Negotiators of both sides agreed to hold talks in Washington again as early as the end of this month and continue negotiations to seek a deal by year’s end.

After holding summit talks with U.S. President Barack Obama at the presidential office in Seoul, President Lee Myung-bak told a joint news conference, “The two countries agreed that they need additional time to address detailed matters, and the trade ministers will make a compromise acceptable to both sides at the earliest date possible.”

“After the end of the G-20 Seoul summit, trade officials from the two nations will continue negotiations, and it will not be long before they reach a deal.”

Obama said that if the agreement is properly concluded, it will become a win-win strategy for the peoples of both countries, adding, “I have instructed our (negotiation) teams to continue efforts without rest for days or weeks and strike a deal. President Lee will send a Korean delegation to Washington, and the two sides will continue negotiations.”

Sources in and out of the Korean government said both sides failed to reach a deal though their leaders ordered an agreement by effectively setting a deadline and trade ministers continued negotiations for three days. The reason for the failure was that the widely differing views of both countries and immense presssure from domestic politics in the two nations.

A ranking Korean government official said, “The minimum demand as requested by Washington to allow American cars to enter the Korean market was above the ceiling that Seoul could possibly accept.”

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told American reporters after the summit, “We spent a considerable portion of the negotiations on discussing automobiles,” adding, “We felt we had to address inequity in market access without fail for the sake of the American auto industry.”

Another Korean government source said, "The government judged that if it accepts the U.S. demand as is, it could face a political backlash that it can hardly handle, including pressure from opposition parties and objection from the public. This was another reason for the failed negotiations.”

A core member of the Korean ruling camp said, “If President Lee declares in person the conclusion of negotiations under a situation wherein negotiators failed to finalize their deal, he could come under direct political attack from opposition parties, who objected to the bill on the agreement’s ratification even before the end of negotiations. We were worried about such a situation”

bookum90@donga.com yongari@donga.com