Agence France-Presse | 8 May 2009
EU agrees to final push in South Korea trade talks
BRUSSELS (AFP) - EU governments renewed on Friday their support for wrapping up floundering free trade talks with South Korea, a European Commission spokesman said.
The European Union and South Korea have been struggling ahead of a summit in Prague on May 23 to close two years of negotiations on a free-trade agreement.
With the summit looming large, EU trade experts supported the European Commission, which is negotiating on member states’ behalf, to give the talks a final push.
"It is an important signal for us from the member states to continue our efforts to find a workable compromise with the Koreans," commission spokesman Lutz Guellner said.
One person who attended the meeting said that no specific date, such as the summit, had been agreed for wrapping up the talks, but rather only to do so "as soon as possible."
"We are convinced that, from an overall perspective, this is a good deal for the EU. But we still have to solve the last outstanding issues, among which duty drawback," Guellner said.
Although a tentative deal was reached in March, the talks remain bogged down by obstacles such as the duty drawback issue, with Seoul reluctant to stop refunding companies for duties on imported materials to make products for exports.
European business groups are up in arms over duty drawback, under which Korean car makers are refunded for duties paid on cheap imported parts from China when they build cars for the European market.