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US calls for revisions to S.Korea FTA

Business Week

US calls for revisions to S.Korea FTA

16 June 2007

Associated Press. Seoul, South Korea. The United States has proposed revisions for a free trade agreement with South Korea to reflect Washington’s new guidelines that call for stricter labor and environmental standards, officials said Saturday.

The U.S. proposal calls for changes in seven sectors of the deal — including labor and the environment — South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement. The trade deal, reached in April, awaits legislative approval in both nations.

Wendy Cutler, the chief U.S. negotiator to the trade talks, has offered to visit Seoul next week to explain the proposed changes, the ministry said.

Seoul will determine its position on the latest U.S. request "after carefully analyzing and reviewing it," the ministry added.

The trade agreement is aimed at eliminating and lowering tariffs on a wide range of industrial goods and services, including automobiles, agricultural products and financial services.

It is the biggest such trade deal for the U.S. since the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, and is the largest ever for South Korea.

Last month, Washington adopted new trade policy guidelines that will elevate labor and environmental rights as key issues in future free trade agreements.

The new U.S. policy will apply immediately to pending free trade deals with Peru and Panama. It will also become a part of trade accords already negotiated with South Korea and Colombia.

South Korean officials have sent mixed signals on making any changes, saying "renegotiation" is impossible, while reportedly still suggesting they would be open to discussing changes if the U.S. makes a formal request.