U.S.-South Korea Trade Talks Near Deadline

The two countries are pressing forward on a free trade deal before the March 31 deadline.

With the March 31 deadline fast approaching, South Korea and the U.S. are pushing to finish a free-trade deal this week.

The two countries have been working on trade negotiations for nearly a year. Agricultural issues have been a major sticking point, as South Korea wants to protect its rice farmers and Washington is asking for an open market for U.S. beef.

Lawmakers in both countries would need to ratify any trade deal struck this week, a process which could take months. Currently, under President Bush's Trade Promotion Authority, the Administration can send a trade deal to Congress for an up or down vote with no amendments. However, that authority is set to expire this summer, and without it, any trade deal is not likely to escape Congress.

The deal faces opposition from many South Koreans who fear imports of cheaper U.S. goods would cost South Korean jobs. Around seven thousand protested the deal on the streets of Seoul Sunday.

The two countries already do more than $75 billion in trade.

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