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US ’better free trade partner than Japan, China’

Chosun Ilbo | 25 May 2006

U.S. ’Better Free Trade Partner Than Japan, China’

The U.S. is a much better free-trade partner for Korea than China or Japan, where issues of race and historical animosities would make an agreement difficult, Korea’s chief negotiator in free-trade talks with the U.S. said Thursday.

Kim Jong-hoon invoked “many sensitive issues such as racism, history distortions and territorial disputes” with China or Japan in response to the suggestion that the country should seek a free trade agreement with one of them first since their economies are smaller than the U.S.’ He was speaking at a forum hosted by the Korea Employers Federation.

“An FTA with the U.S. is likely to hurt only grain and beef in the agricultural sector, but an FTA with China would affect many other crops and mean more direct damage to our agricultural industry,” Kim warned. “As Korea is only marginally ahead of China in terms of technology, an FTA that would remove all the tariffs would result in made-in-China products’ taking over the domestic market.”

“The circumstances do not favor opening or cooperation with one or the other, since we are at odds with Japan over the Dokdo issue and history distortions, and with China over historical matters including its northeast project” — an attempt to co-opt Korea’s ancient history as part of its own ? “while China and Japan are mired in territorial disputes with one another,” the trade negotiator said. “By contrast, the U.S. will become a good partner in terms of advancing and updating technology. If we want to rule the global market, we should be able to rule the U.S. market first.”

Kim dismissed charges from FTA opponents that proponents of the deal are “traitors” or pro-American. “I don’t want to speak ill of people who oppose the bilateral FTA, but they need to have a clear logic for dong so,” he said. He vowed Korea “will not conduct the FTA negotiations by just accepting every demand the U.S. makes.” He added, “The FTA is not being concluded under pressure from someone else; it happens because we want it.” Kim pointed out one benefit would be a reduction in the flood of anti-dumping lawsuits Korean firms face in the U.S..

 source: Chosun Ilbo