FTA negotiators wind down talks on positive note

SOUTH KOREA - Korean and U.S. negotiators made enough progress this week to realize a successful free trade agreement by the end of March, despite falling short of any breakthroughs, the U.S. chief negotiator said yesterday.
calendar icon 20 January 2007
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"It shouldn't be taken as a negative sign as I will not be able to report any breakthroughs today," Wendy Cutler said at a news conference. "(But) this deal can be done and I'm going to work very hard and do everything I can to make these negotiations culminate in a successful Korea-U.S. FTA,"

Seoul and Washington wrapped up their sixth round of FTA talks in Seoul yesterday with "a new mood and spirit of intensity," the official said.

Negotiators began talks on Monday with the aim of narrowing differences on key issues and gauging each other's level of interest and sensitivity in various areas.

Major obstacles remain. Washington wants wider access to Korea's beef, pharmaceuticals and automobile markets. Seoul wants the easing of U.S. antidumping rules and wider access to the U.S. textile markets. The two countries must reach an agreement to submit the final FTA text to the U.S. congress by April 2 to meet the July 1 expiry of the Bush administration's trade promotion authority. The fast-track authority allows trade agreements to be approved without congressional approval.

In the sixth round, Seoul and Washington made progress with improved offers in the industrial tariff area, Cutler said. This covers over 500 products worth over $1.9 billion in trade for the United States and 655 products worth $1.6 billion in trade. The products and tariff package includes those of interest to both countries, including chemicals, machinery, fish, and wood.

Source The Korea Herald
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