중앙데일리

Korea wants ‘limited’ talks on U.S. FTA changes

Nov 19,2010
Korea will only commit itself to “limited additional negotiations” on its stalled free trade agreement with the United States, Deputy Trade Minister Choi Seok-young said yesterday.

Choi’s comments came a week after failed talks to revise the FTA, which were held to address outstanding issues, such as auto and beef imports to Korea. The standoff has blocked the ratification of the trade pact by the U.S. Congress, even though it was originally signed in 2007.

“The Korean government’s basic policy is that it is not right to make changes to the agreement that has already been signed,” Choi said. “But in order to handle the proposals that the U.S. side has come up with in recent negotiations between the two trade heads, give-and-take type negotiations are inevitable.

“However, I do want to say that this is not a full renegotiation, but a very limited additional negotiation that will involve a give-and-take situation.”

Choi said that the most important goal was to reach a balance of interests that would prove acceptable to both sides.

The deputy trade minister hinted that other areas may be renegotiated in addition to the auto sector, which has been the U.S.’ main concern.

“Thinking that Korea will only lose in the auto sector is a one-sided thought,” Choi said. “Even within the auto sector, I believe there are aspects where we can find a balance. We can also find balances in other sectors as well.”

In regard to U.S. demands for easing beef import regulations, Choi made it clear that Korea will not discuss the issue in FTA negotiations because he said it is a non-FTA issue. He also said that the U.S. has raised the beef issue every time the two nations have held trade talks.

“Since beef is a non-FTA issue, this will not count as our portion of keeping the balance in the agreement because the issue was not raised during the [original] negotiations,” said Choi.

The U.S. has been pushing for Korea to ease its auto emissions standards, which the U.S. auto industry regards as a nontariff barrier. Choi said that carbon-dioxide emissions regulations were not included in the original FTA agreement, and even if the two countries agree on the issue, this will not affect the original agreement.

Choi also added that there are no set deadlines for concluding talks on the proposed FTA revisions, saying that recent statements about concluding a deal within weeks - made by the Korean and U.S. heads of state at the G-20 Summit in Seoul - were more an expression of political hope.

Choi’s comments came after the White House said that the U.S. did not reach an agreement with Korea because the current deal was not in the best interests of the U.S.

“I think obviously we did not get a final agreement on Korea .?.?. because, quite honestly, the agreement wasn’t the best that we thought we could get,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Wednesday. “There’s no doubt that to get any free trade agreement through Congress, you’re going to need bipartisan support.”


By Jung Seung-hyun [seungjung@joongang.co.kr]



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