Korus communication channel openKorea and the United States launched a ministerial consultation channel Wednesday on implementing their bilateral free trade agreement, dubbed the Korus FTA.
“We established a very effective and efficient communication channel between the two countries in managing Korus FTA,” Korean Trade Minister Bark Tae-ho said at a forum hosted by the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
He was referring to the first Joint Committee meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk in Washington earlier in the day.
The committee is mandated under the Korus FTA, which took effect in March. The ministerial mechanism supervises the operations of 19 subcommittees and working groups aimed at a smooth implementation of the accord, including solving disputes over interpretations of the terms.
“Basically speaking, we established the highest level of channel. By having the first meeting of the Joint Committee, we opened all of the related committees and working groups. So, whenever they want they can meet now without an administrative decision,” Bark said.
He added, “We didn’t talk about any specific issues.”
The minister said the matter of beef imports was not on the agenda.
The Korean government has come under pressure from opposition parties and other critics to suspend imports of American beef following a case of mad cow disease in California last month.
Bark reiterated that Seoul has maintained a “very cautious position” on the issue, which he said has become a volatile topic ahead of the December presidential elections.
On the investor-state dispute settlement clause in the Korus FTA, Bark said it will be handled in the service and investment committee, to convene in the coming weeks.
Korea’s opposition parties claim this investment safeguard mechanism undermines Korea’s legal independence by allowing U.S. companies to take action against Seoul’s policy decisions.
They demand Seoul address the concern by altering relevant clauses that they argue unfairly favor American firms.
Bark stressed he would not use the word “renegotiation” with regard to the clause, saying the term “discussions” is preferred.
He pointed out that, thanks to the FTA with the U.S., Korea has bought lots of time to monitor the development of negotiations on the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks. Yonhap
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