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Korean trade chief hints at FTA talks nearing conclusion

Korean trade chief hints at FTA talks nearing conclusion

Posted December. 04, 2010 14:17,   


Negotiators of Korea and the U.S. in Washington Thursday appeared close to resolving differences on their bilateral free trade agreement on the fourth day of additional talks.

The bilateral trade talks were scheduled to end Wednesday but were extended to Friday, as both sides sought to narrow differences over key issues including the proposed extension of the period for the lifting of U.S. tariffs on Korean cars.

Korea reportedly pressed for U.S. concessions in other sectors, including agriculture, to strike a “balance of interests” in return for accepting the U.S. demand for the extension. Seoul continued to lower the level of U.S. demands even after the scheduled negotiation deadline in going for a make-or-break conclusion on the trade deal.

Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon held talks with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk for nearly two hours Thursday in a last-minute effort to narrow differences. Though the two sides failed to do so, they agreed to meet again Friday for further negotiations.

After Thursday’s talks, Kim told Korean reporters at a hotel in Maryland that the negotiations saw “some progress.” Even if the talks continue through the weekend, he said he will seek a conclusion instead of ending the talks.

Kim had previously mentioned “many difficulties” in the talks but said the word “progress” for the first time. This is interpreted as a suggestion of imminent conclusion.

“We have lowered U.S. demands significantly from the original level,” Kim told reporters. “I will make concessions once the negotiations are over but you’d be appalled if you knew what the U.S. initially demanded.”