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US envoy stresses need for FTA with Korea

U.S. Ambassador to Korea Christopher R. Hill called for the quick conclusion of a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) and the abolishment of the screen quota system during the General Membership Meeting with American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) Tuesday at Shilla Hotel in central Seoul.

In his speech on "The future of U.S.-Korea economic relations," the American envoy said his ultimate goal during his term in office is to reach a conclusion of the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement (FTA).

"The FTA will strengthen both our economies and propel our trading. Progress has been made but we still have a long way to go. Although it is essential to conclude the BIT, the Screen Quota system plays as a hindrance to it," he said.

"The Korean film industry is already very successful and competitive on a global level. Korea does not need such kind of market restriction. It is time to handle the issue of the Screen Quota system," he added.

Hill emphasized that stronger sanitary inspection is required when importing agricultural products and called for lowering the tariffs on Korean cars and protecting intellectual property rights that are massively being abused.

As for Visa problems, he said that although the U.S is looking forward to qualify Korea as a Visa-waiver country, as long as the number of illegal Korean emigrants and residents in the U.S. does not show any sign of a decrease, the U.S. cannot but maintain the system.

Regarding the move of Yongsan military base, he said that in the long term, it is more helpful for American soldiers to be trained in a more spacious place, hence increasing security. Thus he emphasized that businessmen in Korea should not be shaken about the issue.

``We put much importance on a commitment to free enterprises as we do to freedom of democracy. The commercial ties between the two countries are vibrant and strong. We will do our best to make the progress in bilateral relationship of strategic alliance. Maintaining security on the peninsula is very much foremost on our minds," Hill said.

He also said that the six-party process could actually yield further benefits in the future for solving North Korean nuclear problems.