Tags: Korea | free | trade | complaints

SKorea Rejects US Free Trade Complaints

Wednesday, 30 Jun 2010 04:46 AM

SEOUL — South Korea said Wednesday it would reopen talks soon with the United States on a major free trade deal, but rejected complaints it unfairly restricts US beef and auto exports.

Trade Minister Kim Jong-Hoon said the two allies would resume talks on the pact after President Barack Obama ordered his team to finalise the deal by November.

"It is more important to make sure the contents of the agreement should be acceptable to us than (to carry out the) timeline," Kim told journalists.

Obama, meeting Saturday with South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak on the sidelines of a summit in Canada, said he ordered his team to finalise the deal before a G20 summit in Seoul in November so he can present it to Congress in the few months afterwards.

"It is the right thing to do for our country, it is the right thing to do for Korea," Obama said.

Then-president George W. Bush completed negotiations in 2007 on the agreement, which would be the largest for the United States since the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

But the Democratic-led Congress has not taken up the agreement. Lawmakers -- including Obama, when he was a senator -- contended it did not give enough access for US cattlemen and carmakers to Asia's fourth largest economy.

Some US lawmakers and others say South Korea still has barriers other than tariffs that block US exports.

"I don't think South Korea has any allegedly disguised barriers against US cars," Kim said. "I cannot accept the logic, that the fact that (US cars) do not sell well in South Korea proves the existence of such barriers."

South Korea shipped about 700,000 cars to the United States in 2007 while just 5,000 moved in the opposite direction, official figures show.

Analysts in Seoul say the figures exclude more than 125,000 vehicles made by a General Motors subsidiary in Korea while including vehicles made by a Hyundai plant in Alabama.

The free trade deal has also stirred some controversy in South Korea due to public fears over the safety of US beef.

Despite angry protests from farmers and activists, South Korea in 2008 agreed to ease restrictions imposed over fears of mad cow diseases and to resume imports of beef from US cattle aged less than 30 months.

Some US lawmakers want to remove the limit.

"Access to South Korea's beef market is greater than other countries in the region. There is no reason for South Korea to be singled out in this sector," Kim said.

However, the largest US confederation of labor unions vowed Tuesday to battle the trade deal.

"This flawed agreement is the last thing working people need," Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, said in a statement.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

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SEOUL — South Korea said Wednesday it would reopen talks soon with the United States on a major free trade deal, but rejected complaints it unfairly restricts US beef and auto exports.
Korea,free,trade,complaints
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2010-46-30
 
 

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