Yonhap (via Asia Pulse) | 9 December 2004
S.Korea, U.S. to Hold Preliminary Meeting to Explore Fta
SEOUL, Dec 9 Asia Pulse - South Korea and the United States will hold working level meetings early next year to explore the feasibility of a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Thursday.
"There is a consensus in the two countries for a comprehensive framework that can expand economic ties and cooperation," said a ministry official, pointing out that at present Seoul and Washington dealt with economic issues that arise on a case-by-case basis.
The official predicted that the first exploratory meeting should take place in January or February.
The early sessions are likely to be used to examine whether an FTA pact is needed, and to preview some of the obstacles that might arise if negotiations were to commence.
Once this stage is completed, the respective government, business and academic sectors of the two countries could further explore issues that would need to be discussed and resolved before an FTA could be signed.
South Korea has said a FTA with the United States, one of its most important trade partners, is desirable but progress has been slow. One obstacle has been the inability of both parties to make headway on a bilateral investment treaty, a U.S.-set precondition to a trade deal, because of a dispute over access to the Korean film market.
South Korea signed a FTA with Chile in 2002 and effectively concluded another with Singapore late last month. It is holding talks with Japan and other countries next year, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.