[EDITORIALS]Resolving trade-related issues

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[EDITORIALS]Resolving trade-related issues

An official at the U.S. Embassy in Korea said yesterday that the screen quota issue should be resolved before the two countries launch negotiations on a free-trade agreement. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, during her recent visit to Korea, officially asked the government to reopen the Korean market to U.S. beef. Now, Korea should seriously deliberate on what answers to give the United States regarding their trade-related requests.
In 2003, Seoul proposed a bilateral investment treaty to the United States. But it was nullified due to the conflicts within Korea over the screen quota issue. The Korea Institute for International Economic Policy said imports of U.S. films are about $200 million annually, whereas Korea’s exports to the United States would expand by $3.5 billion to $4.6 billion annually if a free-trade agreement were signed.
But Lee Chang-dong, a film director who was the minister of culture and tourism at that time, said, “Even if we lose billions of dollars, we cannot give up the film industry, which is the future industry of Korea.” So the screen quota system, under which domestic movie theaters are required to show Korean films for at least 146 days out of a year, remains sacred.
The government and people in the film industry have organized a body for discussions about the screen quota system but they have never held a meeting to substantially discuss it. Korea should settle the screen quota issue, for negotiations on a free-trade agreement. The nation has no choice but to reduce the screen quota system step by step, because the country’s economic interest should be considered, and domestic films have now become competitive. The film industry should no longer persist in its interests under the name of protecting “cultural sovereignty.”
As for the issue of whether to resume importing U.S. beef, the government needs to be cautious, because the issue involves public health. Japan, where a mad cow disease case was discovered, is reluctant to reopen its market to U.S. beef, considering the sensitive public opinion on the issue. Seoul, however, seems intent on using the issue as a card in trade negotiations. But the issue should not be dealt with carelessly. The government should solve the issue in accordance with the global standards on the banning of beef imports from countries where mad cow disease cases were found.
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