Envoy says it’s too soon for FTA talks with Tokyo

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Envoy says it’s too soon for FTA talks with Tokyo

Choi Kyung-lim, new chief negotiator of free trade agreements, dismissed rumors that resumption of negotiations with Japan were imminent at his first press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Doryeom-dong, central Seoul, yesterday.

Choi admitted the two governments have been in close discussions to restart negotiations, but insisted the negotiations will not resume soon.

Leaders of Korea, China and Japan exchanged views on trilateral FTA negotiations when they met for a preliminary working-level discussion in Tokyo June 20.

“In order to resume Korea-Japan negotiations, there must be a consensus on the manner of negotiations that can reflect the interests of both countries,” he said.

“In the final settlement, political discretion will be indispensable, as the FTA not only affects bilateral economic ties but also political and social relations,” he said. “It will take considerable time to embark on negotiations.”

Talks between Korea and Japan have been stalled since late 2004 due mainly to Japan’s reluctance to lower tariffs on agricultural goods.

Choi said Korea, China and Japan will hold a second round of working-level meetings later this month with the aim of launching trade talks within this year. The ministry said the date has not been decided yet but the talks will be held in Beijing.

Korea and China are currently in talks over a bilateral FTA.

Regarding negotiations for a Korea-China FTA, the ministry said the two nations are trying to find a delicate balance between the two nations’ needs. “While seeking a way to maximize bilateral trade, we will come up with a way to protect sensitive areas,” Choi said.

By Kim Jung-yoon [kjy@joongang.co.kr]

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