South Korea FTA Negotiations Underway

Negotiators optimistic talks can conclude before the end of the year.

Negotiators launched the first round of South Korea Free Trade Agreement talks Monday, focusing on broad texts, not tariff reductions this week. Wendy Cutler, U.S. Trade Representative Chief Negotiator for South Korean FTA, reports agriculture will be one of the most sensitive issues debated in the talks.

Cutler says specific products that present a challenge at the negotiating table include rice and beef. In addition there is a whole host of sanitary and phyto-sanitary issues.

She adds USTR remains committed to full resumed beef trade; South Korea plans boneless beef trade resumption June 7. "Even once the market is open to boneless, we'll be urging them to further open their markets to cover bone-in market as well as offal meat," she says.

Protests from South Korean and U.S. groups could be heard outside of the negotiations, Cutler explains. She says Koreans are fully aware that in agricultural and service sectors the agreement brings challenges domestically. Cutler adds the trade agreement does help bring the South Korea economy into the 21st century so they can better compete.

Cutler says both sides are "determined to conclude negotiations under current [Trade Promotion Authority] procedures," Cutler says, adding it really calls for conclusion of talks by the end of this year to get a Congressional vote on the deal before TPA expires in June 2007.

The next talks are scheduled in Seoul July 10, followed by meetings every six to eight weeks.


TAGS: Regulatory
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