South Korean trade min­is­ter de­fends deal with United States

The Pak Banker - - International3 -

SEOUL: South Korea's top trade of­fi­cial de­fended a hard-fought com­pro­mise with the United States to sal­vage a stalled free trade agree­ment, re­ject­ing ac­cu­sa­tions that his govern­ment gave up too much to seal the deal.

Trade Min­is­ter Kim Jonghoon and U.S. Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ron Kirk reached a fi­nal agree­ment Fri­day af­ter four days of ne­go­ti­a­tions fo­cus­ing on U.S. de­mands that South Korea re­work the ac­cord to ad­dress its big trade sur­plus in au­to­mo­biles.

The South Korea-U.S. free trade agree­ment was orig­i­nally signed in June 2007, but steps to rat­ify it stalled amid changes in govern­ment in both coun­tries, the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis and Amer­i­can de­mands that South Korea take steps to re­duce their im­bal­ance in auto trade and ease re­stric­tions on im­ports of Amer­i­can beef.

South Korea, which long said it would not budge on the ini­tial deal, ul­ti­mately com­pro­mised and ad­dressed key U.S. con­cerns on cars, though it also re­ceived ben­e­fits in re­turn such as a two-year de­lay in the elim­i­na­tion of its tar­iffs on Amer­i­can pork. Beef was not in­cluded in the deal. "I can­not agree with some views that (the agree­ment was the re­sult) of our uni­lat­eral con­ces­sion," Kim, the trade min­is­ter, told re­porters Sun­day, call­ing it a "win-win" deal. Kim re­turned to South Korea on Satur­day af­ter par­tic­i­pat­ing in the talks near Washington. -Ap

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