Jun 4, 2005
Korea urges Japan to open up
SEOGWIPO - Japan needs to allow South Korean products greater access to its agricultural and fisheries markets in an effort to advance stalled bilateral free-trade agreement (FTA) talks, South Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong said on Friday.
The two sides have made no headway since December 2004, after holding informal exploratory meetings to determine the extent of market access if a free-trade pact is signed.
"The ball is now in Japan’s court," Kim told a news conference. "Unless Tokyo addresses concerns raised by Seoul in past talks, there could be no progress on this matter."
He said Seoul wants an FTA that effectively facilitates trade instead of just making "insignificant" cuts in tariffs on manufactured products. "At that time, we offered market access equivalent to 95% of goods traded for manufactured goods and 90% for the agricultural sector."
He added that Japan offered to do away with restrictions on 99% in the manufacturing areas, but said the percentage of liberalization will be limited to 50% for its agricultural and fisheries sectors. Kim said that was inadequate and not in line with "best practices" for FTAs outlined by APEC countries.
"This position is in conflict with the original intent calling for a high degree of liberalization," the trade minister said. "Japan had called for a start of talks based on what it was offering, but I objected because there was little way of negotiations resulting in the raising of their 50% proposal to 90% levels," Kim said.
The trade expert also said Tokyo had not responded at all to a 15-page memo personally drafted by himself pertaining to Japan’s non-tariff barriers and 59 of its import quotas. The statement makes it unlikely for FTA talks to make progress in the foreseeable future unless Japan provides greater opening of its agriculture and fisheries sectors.
South Korea and Japan had planned to conclude an FTA by the end of the year as a means to boost bilateral trade and cooperation that can help fuel each other’s economies.