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Free Trade Agreement May Be Concluded March 30

Posted March. 22, 2007 03:03,   


Kim Jong-hoon, the chief of the South Korean delegation for the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement negotiations, said, “The final settling of KORUS FTA can be concluded on March 30.”

Chief envoy Kim said so when he met with journalists a restaurant near the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, Washington D.C., the venue for the negotiations, on the second day of the high level conference for the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement talks on March 20 (local time) and was asked “whether the settlement of the trade-ministerial conference planned to start from March 26 in Seoul would be later than 12 o’clock at night, March 31.”

The deadline the U.S. House set for the Bush administration concerning the conclusion of negotiations in pursuit of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) is 07:00 A.M., March 31, Korea time.

“The number of issues left to be addressed in the trade-ministerial conference is less than ten, and will be narrowed down to half of those to be negotiated at the highest level(twenty),” chief envoy Kim said. “Once complex issues are solved, others will follow.”

“What is left is making deals on the remaining issues. We’re nearly done with the task of finding out which issues the other side will yield on,” he added. “Obstacles still remain. One or two deal-breakers may exist right up to the last moment of the negotiations.”

The negotiation teams of both sides held conferences on eight issues on March 20 in Washington, but failed to bridge the gaps between their opinions in such fields as the elimination of trade tariffs in the automobile and textiles industries, and the opening of the broadcasting and communications sectors.

South Korea and the U.S. also held a high level conference in Seoul on the agriculture sector and sought a solution for the import of U.S. beef and the elimination of tariffs, but failed to make progress.

Chief envoy Kim also pointed to the possibility of an FTA being signed with one or two issues unsolved, saying, “One or two issues on which no agreement is made may linger, but we might let them go with a promise to solve them later.”