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Korea denies new concessions on U.S. FTA

JoongAng Daily

Korea denies new concessions on U.S. FTA

26 August 2010

By Jung Seung-hyun

Korea yesterday denied a U.S. media report that it planned to make new “concessions” to secure the ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement from the U.S. Congress.

The Washington Post reported Monday that U.S. President Barack Obama had won a commitment from President Lee Myung-bak for “more concessions” and wants to discuss possible revisions and amendments when they meet in Seoul in November.

“It is not true,” Choi Seok-young, deputy minister for trade, told reporters. “We have not made any commitments to the U.S.”

“The Korean government has not promised any kind of concessions concerning the Korea-United States free trade agreement,” said Choi. “The U.S. Congress is currently in recess, and we have not yet been offered anything from the U.S. government concerning the FTA.”

He added that since the U.S. government has not offered anything yet, it is not the right time to talk about the Korean government’s plans on disputes over imports of U.S. autos and beef.

The two countries signed the FTA in 2007, but it is still awaiting ratification by the legislatures of both countries.

After a meeting with Lee at a G-20 Summit in Canada last month, Obama said he hopes to see the outstanding issues resolved before the end of this year so he can submit the trade pact to Congress for approval next year.

Many lawmakers in the U.S. have complained about the pact’s auto provisions, which they claim will allow Korea to maintain non-tariff barriers to U.S. auto imports.

The U.S. also wants Korea to lift import restrictions on beef more than 30 months old, which were made because of fears over mad cow disease.

The trade pact, however, won a key endorsement from John Boehner, the minority leader in the House of Representatives, who said Congress should quickly approve the deal to help create jobs in the U.S.

Choi said that the FTA with the European Union is progressing smoothly as the agreement completed its legal accordance procedure.

“The FTA matter is up for approval at the special European Council on Foreign Relation on Sept. 10, and we believe the agreement will be approved at the council,” said Choi.

He also said that Korea and Peru may be approaching the end of negotiations on concluding an FTA.