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Outlook Hopeful as Trade Talks Begin

Donga Ilbo, Korea

Outlook Hopeful as Trade Talks Begin

4 February 2006

by Seung-Ryun Kim

Kim Hyun-jong, Korea’s trade minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Robert Portman, the United States Trade Representative, declared the start of preliminary ROK-U.S. ROK-U.S. free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations at a joint press conference in the main hall of Capitol Building in Washington D.C. yesterday.

“The ROK-US free trade talks will provide the momentum to take bilateral relations to the next level ever since our two nations formed a military alliance in 1953,” Kim said. “Korea’s largest trading partner is China, but Korea’s most crucial partner is the U.S. We are embarking on FTA talks, but in the process, we will take into account the nation’s geopolitical location and the significance of our bilateral alliance.”

Portman said, “You can’t find any other country that better symbolizes the bright future of the open market, democracy, and economic reform than Korea. I hope that our two nations can enhance the bilateral alliance even further by successfully concluding FTA talks.”

In response to the question, “Will you accept products from the Gaesong Industrial Park as Korean?” Portman answered, “The core of the issue is whether to acknowledge another country’s products as Korean. In this regard, the issue isn’t appropriate for the ROK-U.S. FTA talks, and it isn’t being discussed.”

The preliminary talks are scheduled to continue for three months before the formal talks start on May 3 due to procedural requirements under U.S. law.