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Korea, American CEOs Call for BIT

Korea Times

2 July 2004

Korea, American CEOs Call for BIT

By Seo Jee-yeon

Staff Reporter

South Korean and American business leaders on Friday agreed to urge their respective governments to step up efforts to form a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two nations and seek growth engines.

The consensus was reached at a meeting of the Korea-U.S. and U.S.-Korea Business Councils, held at the Shilla Hotel July 1-2.

As part of efforts to speed up FTA talks, both councils will cooperate to ensure an early signing of the bilateral investment treaty (BIT), which will act as a bridge in accelerating bilateral FTA talks, the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) said.

Expectations are high for the signing of the BIT and the later FTA as the Korean government has indicated an intention to ease the local screen quota system, a stumbling block for the BIT.

The resignation of Lee Chang-dong as the culture-information minister has raised hopes for the possibility of easing current restrictions on the import of Hollywood movies. Lee had been a staunch supporter of protectionism in the film industry.

Finance-Economy Minister Lee Hun-jai said in an opening speech Thursday that an institutional framework must be established to further develop bilateral economic relations. He stressed the BIT remains a priority for deeper economic cooperation between the two countries. He indicated that a Korea-U.S. FTA is a mid-to-long-term task.

Commerce-Industry-Energy Minister Lee Hee-beom also yesterday backed the decision of the CEOs of the two countries. In a speech addressed to them, Lee said the trade pacts will help both nations take bilateral economic cooperation and trade to a higher level.

Minister Lee also made it clear that the Korean government will continue its efforts to strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) in keeping with Korea’s status as a global leader in the field of information technology (IT).

Lee also mentioned the future direction for a policy of technology standards in communications, which is a current issue among businessmen of the two countries.

"The government will pursue a policy of technology standards in accordance with international standards so those used domestically will conform to those used globally, rather than Korea just sticking to home-grown ones," he said.

South Korea and the United States were on the verge of a collision over the nation’s attempts to adopt the wireless Internet platform for interoperability (WIPI) as a single national standard for mobile phone applications.

The dispute was resolved last April when the Korean government agreed to use dual standards, adopting the binary runtime environment for the wireless (BREW) platform developed and commercialized by U.S. mobile chip giant Qualcomm.

Meanwhile, the FKI, a body belonging to the Korea-U.S. Council, proposed that the U.S. council initiate a so-called win-win project as part of efforts to tap the Korean research workforce in the information technology sector.

Under the project, the Korean government will support the human resources and part of the operational costs of a U.S. research and development (R&D) center here.

The project would provide foreign R&D firms with a skilled Korean workforce, helping Korea ease its serious youth unemployment problem, FKI officials said.

About 33 local business leaders, chaired by Hyosung Group chairman Cho suk-rae, took part in the Seoul council, while 44 American business leaders, led by AIG chairman Maurice R. Greenberg, also took part.