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AMCHAM urges Seoul to start FTA talks soon

Korea Times


AMCHAM Urges Seoul to Start FTA Talks Soon

By Seo Jee-yeon
Staff Reporter

The U.S. business community in Korea Wednesday expressed its collective hope to launch free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations between South Korea and the U.S. within this year, noting increasing interest in forming such a trade pact among U.S. policymakers.

``There is increasing discussion in both the U.S. and Korea about the possibility of launching FTA talks,’’ said Myron Brilliant, president of the U.S.-Korea Business Council.

``We are pleased to tell you that not only in the U.S. business community, but also at high levels within the U.S. government, there is very serious interest in exploring a FTA with Korea.’’

His comment was made in a joint-press conference with the America Chamber of Commerce in Korea (AMCHAM Korea), which was held at the Hyatt Hotel to address the council’s annual report on trade issues and recommendations to Korea.

In connection, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) in Washington raised doubts about Seoul’s commitment to a bilateral free trade agreement, pressed the Asian trading partner Tuesday to be ``unambiguous’’ in supporting it.

The office urged South Korea, as well as the U.S. Congress, to decide by end of the year whether they indeed want a bilateral accord. Neena Moorjani, USTR press secretary, said chief U.S. Trade Representative Robert Portman and visiting South Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong discussed ``what it would take’’ to move forward on the launch of the FTA.

Brilliant predicted FTA talks between the two nations could be launched within this year, if there is progress and resolution on some longstanding trade issues, including a cut in Korea’s screen quota and the resumption of U.S. beef imports.

Other trade issues standing in the way of Korea-U.S. FTA talks, which the council’s annual report highlighted, are to strengthen intellectual property rights protections and enforcement and make significant progress towards resolving trade issues impacting U.S. companies in such areas as the automotive, pharmaceutical, agricultural, telecommunications and other key sectors.

AMCHAM Korea officials urged the Korean government to make decisions on those difficult issues to make progress for the FTA talks with U.S. before November, when Korea hosts the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ meeting in November in Pusan.

``The APEC will provide Korea with a unique opportunity to showcase its will to seek a more open and free economy to the world,’’ AMCHAM Korea president Tami Overby said, urging Korea to take advantage of the APEC submit meeting to launch Korea-U.S. FTA talks.

Brilliant also forecast unless both governments make progress this year, it might be difficult to form a trade pact in the near future as the U.S. Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which allows U.S. trade negotiators to work much more effectively in the negotiation process without interference by the U.S. Congress, will expire in 2007.

 source: Korea Times