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S. Korea may announce start of FTA talks with US on Feb. 2

Asia Pulse News


Thursday January 26, 2006

SEOUL, Jan 26 Asia Pulse - South Korea is expected to announce the start of free trade negotiations with the United States on February 2, a government source said Thursday.

The source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the announcement would likely come in an economy-related ministers’ meeting on that day.

"Today’s announcement to cut the screen quota days has come after considerations of the timeframe," the source said.

Finance minister Han Duck-soo, in a sudden public announcement earlier in the day, said the government will reduce the number of days that theaters are required to show domestic movies from 146 to 73.

The screen quota system, established in 1966 to protect local movies from giant Hollywood studio productions, currently required South Korean cinemas to show local movies 146 days a year.

"A free trade pact with a large economy is a great benefit to the South Korean economy... We need to actively seek free trade pacts with other countries as well," Han told reporters.

The finance ministry’s announcement is expected to clear a final logjam for South Korea to start the much-awaited free trade talks with the U.S., but is sure to spark a massive uproar from the nation’s movie industry.

Immediately after the finance ministry’s statement, a group of local movie actors and actress said it would refuse to accept the government’s plan.

"We will fight to the bitter end until the government withdraws the plan," the group said in a statement.

The government of President Roh Moo-hyun has been pushing for years to sign a bilateral investment treaty with the U.S., but Washington has insisted Seoul first address some sticking points in bilateral trade.

One of two key obstacles to the free trade talks was resolved last Friday when South Korea agreed lift its two-year ban on imports of U.S. beef. The restrictions were imposed after a case of mad cow disease was found in the U.S.

Last year, the U.S. was South Korea’s second-largest trading partner. In the 11 months to November last year, two-way trade surpassed US$65 billion, according to data released by the trade ministry.


 source: Asia Pulse