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Korea, US agree to start FTA negotiations

ChosunIlbo, Korea

Korea, U.S. Agree to Start FTA Negotiations

6 January 2006

Korea and the U.S. could start negotiations for a free trade agreement in April, an insider said Friday. The government is reportedly thinking of announcing the expected benefits of an FTA in President Roh Moo-hyun’s New Year’s meeting with the press around Jan. 17. The FTA could be concluded around next March after a year or so of negotiations, the source added.

It has been a long road. The two countries concluded a third round of advance talks between January and March last year. Encouraged by pledges in last November’s summit between the two presidents in Gyeongju, the Korean and U.S. trade chiefs reportedly talked about starting FTA negotiations via video link on Tuesday. The matter is of some urgency since the Bush administration was granted a fast-track authority to speed up FTA negotiations that expires in June 2007, and negotiation results should be presented to Congress by March next year.

The government in a meeting led by Finance Minister Han Duck-soo last September decided to push ahead with the FTA with the U.S. before concluding free trade deals with China and Japan.

The two governments have now reached provisional agreement on key issues for Washington, such as Korea’s screen quota designed to stem a flood of Hollywood blockbusters and the resumption of U.S. beef imports. Under the enforcement ordinance for a film promotion law set to be revised sometime in the first half of the year, the screen quota will be cut to 73 days, from 146, in exchange for other support measures including financial aid to the film industry and a boost to investment.

Korea has agreed to resume imports of boneless meat of cows under 30 months old from the U.S., in accordance with safety standards set by the Office of International Epizootics. To the chagrin of the U.S., that excludes LA rib-cut, which used to make up the biggest share of U.S. beef sold here.