Dokdo won’t derail Korea-Japan FTA, says Choi

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Dokdo won’t derail Korea-Japan FTA, says Choi

Choi Kyung-lim, the new chief negotiator for Korea’s free trade agreements (FTA), said yesterday that the ongoing diplomatic controversy between Korea and Japan will not directly impact the two sides’ stalled FTA negotiations.

“However, it will be difficult to resume the Japan deal in a short period of time, because there won’t be much progress unless Japan accepts Korea’s requests, including removing non-tariff barriers and opening its agricultural market to embrace Korean products,” he said at his first press conference in Seoul yesterday.

Tokyo is not fully cooperating with Seoul in removing such hindrances to the proposed trade deal, according to Choi.

Korea’s former ambassador to Brazil was appointed as the chief FTA negotiator last month. He dismissed concerns that the ongoing territorial dispute about the easternmost islets of Dokdo, known as Takeshima in Japan, would derail the FTA talks.

Negotiations on the pact froze up in 2004, which effectively set the dial back to zero. Three rounds of working-level talks were held prior to the official resumption of negotiations this June.

On a related note, Choi said that moves to get a trilateral agreement up and running between Korea, China and Japan will likely proceed smoothly as the three agreed to meet for talks on Aug. 21 in Qingdao, in China’s Shandong Province. Japan has agreed to participate in the upcoming talks, although it is refusing to meet Korea on a one-on-one basis.

“All three countries are aware of the importance of the three-party agreement,” Choi said.

Regarding the ongoing negotiations on a Korea-China FTA, Choi said it will likely be more difficult to negotiate than any other trade deal of this nature. A third round of talks is scheduled to take place next week from Wednesday through Friday in Weihai, also in Shandong. A second round was held in Jeju early last month.

“The two countries have agreed on general modalities for trading goods and services, and the third round will focus more on specific items,” Choi said.

By Song Su-hyun [ssh@joongang.co.kr]

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