Trade Ministry to create plan for U.S. FTA talks

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Trade Ministry to create plan for U.S. FTA talks

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said Monday that it would establish a plan to renegotiate the free trade agreement with the United States and notify the National Assembly about its course of action.

Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong held a meeting with officials from 20 ministries and government organizations to discuss issues related to the free trade agreement and come up with an effective negotiating strategies.

The meeting came after the ministry held a second round of public hearings on Friday with industry officials, researchers and the general public to collect opinions on the five-year-old trade deal.

“We hope to submit the plan to lawmakers possibly within this month,” said a senior trade official who attended the closed-door meeting, “but the schedule is up to the National Assembly as the budget bill is currently under review.”

Submitting a plan would effectively wrap up domestic procedures needed to open talks with Washington.

Local farmers have opposed any additional market opening to the United States, claiming they have suffered substantial damage over the past five years. Seoul officials have indicated the agricultural sector will be “the red line” in future talks.

The ministry said it would also push to sign a free trade agreement with Mercosur, the South American trading bloc composed of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

The bloc’s market accounts for more than three-quarters of economic activity on the continent, according to ministry data.

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