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EU says SKorea must do more for trade deal

Agence France Presse | 19 October 2007

EU says SKorea must do more for trade deal

SEOUL (AFP) - The European Union on Friday said it was disappointed with South Korea’s offer in talks on a free-trade agreement and called on Seoul to do more.

The EU is South Korea’s second-largest trading partner after China with nearly 80 billion dollars in two-way trade last year, but the trade talks have been held up by a number of disagreements.

"We have achieved some progress but no breakthrough," chief EU negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero said after a week of further discussions.

"I’m particularly disappointed that Korea appears to have taken a very defensive approach to tariff negotiations in industrial sectors," he said. "We certainly expect Korea to take a bolder approach to these negotiations."

Bercero said the EU had made a "very bold offer" at the start of negotiations, providing for the elimination of full duties on South Korean goods over seven years — and remove tariffs on 80 percent within three years.

South Korea’s proposal not only falls short of the EU’s offer but is also less ambitious than the one Seoul has agreed with the United States in their bilateral free-trade agreement, he said.

Brussels has offered to eliminate or phase out all its import tariffs on South Korean goods within seven years, and remove tariffs on 80 percent of them within three years.

Seoul has offered to remove tariffs on 68 percent of the EU goods within three years, demanding some exceptions as imports of pork and dairy goods still remain sensitive issues for many South Koreans.

"We explained it was difficult to justify that in almost all sectors, the Korean offer was inferior to the offer presented by the EU and indeed also inferior to the offer made to the US," he said.

He also said South Korea was pushing to include goods produced at an inter-Korean joint industrial park at North Korea’s Kaesong city.

However, the EU indicated that Kaesong was a "very difficult" issue that would raise a series of legal, technical and political problems, the negotiator said.

He said the next round, set for the week of November 19 in Brussels, would be crucial in deciding "whether or not there can be much progress towards conclusion of these negotiations."

 source: AFP