Pending free trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea

The United States Thursday called for progress in talks to address US concerns over lopsided auto trade and some other issues before ratification of a pending free trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea.

“Whether it’s autos or whether it’s other issues, we know that we’ve got to make some progress,” Robert Gibbs, a White House spokesman, told reporters.

“I think both sides are going to sit down and see if they can make some of that progress. If we can make enough progress to where the president feels like, for instance on autos, there’s a better deal for our automakers and for our workers, then it’ll be something that we can support.”

The remarks came as working-level officials from South Korea and the US are struggling to narrow differences in Seoul before the G-20 economic summit.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and US President Barack Obama will meet next week on the sidelines of the G-20 summit to discuss the Korea FTA’s ratification, which has been pending for more than three years over an imbalance in auto trade and limited shipments of beef.

“The (US) president outlined the concerns that he had, both during the campaign in 2008 and just recently, with what he thinks has to be improved in an agreement that he can support and he can be a party to,” Gibbs said.

South Korean Deputy Minister for Trade Choi Seok-young met with Wendy Cutler, assistant US trade representative for Korea, Japan and APEC Affairs, in Seoul Thursday, and they were to meet again Friday.

US Trade Representative Ron Kirk is expected to meet with South Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon early next week to conclude talks for the ratification of the FTA, signed in 2007 under the George Bush administration.

Kirk had a two-day meeting with Kim in San Francisco last week, the first of its kind since June, but neither official disclosed the outcome of the talks, apparently to avoid adversely affecting Democratic candidates in Tuesday’s election.

In Seoul, Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said there is “room for negotiations” on auto issues, considering changes South Korea made in fuel mileage and other regulations.

But the minister said Seoul cannot fully open its market to US beef.

Currently, South Korea allows imports of US beef only from cattle younger than 30 months, which is considered to have lower risks of mad cow disease than beef from older cattle.

Kim also said the text of the 2007 deal won’t be changed in the ongoing FTA talks.

“The text of the FTA agreement reflects the interests of both South Korea and the US in a considerably balanced way,” Kim told KBS Radio. “There cannot be renegotiations that change the text.”

US President Obama spoke Monday with South Korean President Lee and reiterated his pledge to conclude talks for the FTA’s ratification before the G-20 economic summit to be held in Seoul next week.

“The president underscored that we hope to use the next week to make progress toward an agreement,” Gibbs said Tuesday. “If we can reach a satisfactory agreement on the key issues for American workers, we will have a deal.”

Obama ordered Kirk in June to conclude talks with Kim Jong-hoon on outstanding issues before mid-November so he can present the deal to Congress early next year.

Kirk said recently that he will sideline issues other than autos and beef to complete talks with South Korea by next week, despite calls by a number of US industries to revisit clauses on textiles, financial services, investment, labor and even refrigerators.

Experts, however, say he will likely put more focus on autos, as beef is a much more sensitive issue in South Korea.

Weeks of street rallies over consumer health concerns from beef imports nearly paralyzed President Lee’s administration in early 2008.

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  • 2010-11-06 at 6:39 pm
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    THE FREE TRADE TRAVESTY

    After listening to Billionaire Donald Trump describing the economic mess our country has been experience for years. The man has been demonized by the press and certain critics, but he doesn’t have to kowtow to anybody? He is a self made entrepreneur’s and has made several comments of joining the political cesspit in Washington, even confirming his intent of running for President. My personal opinion on that idea is that his business experience would be a protracted way of solving these United States fiscal problems. From his words, he is a very patriotic American and sees that the route we are taking now is into deeper financial mess. I thought as a Tea Party associate that his point of view makes perfect sense of how to extract ourselves from this unemployment quicksand? This should be the first main issue that needs to be rapidly resolved. Trump opened up his broadcast saying,

    “We don’t need to tell you unemployment in this country is at a nightmare level, still 9.6 percent, and that doesn’t even include those who are so beaten down to have given up. What can we do? What would Donald Trump do? So how do we get jobs? Trump opened up talking about unemployment in Iowa and how “Maytag” a company famous for home appliances skipped off to Mexico. The joke on us, that there is no custom tariffs when the products, return to America? The Irony is their commodities from Mexico is really not that much cheaper? Trump added that we don’t manufacturer products anymore. My example being Television manufacturing Company in Bloomington, Indiana that closed down the plant in July 1995, so hundreds of people lost their jobs, to Mexico. When relating to India, I hope that negotiators don’t fall into the same Free Trade trap as–CHINA–and–MEXICO. Free trade has not been a very pleasant agenda for the majority of the impoverished Mexican farmers from mega American corporate entities?

    This was the inception of the Free Trade obsession, which has developed into a sad joke in itself, on the US worker. Doesn’t every loyal American realize that we are the largest consumer nation in the world? That we should demand balanced trade agreements, not the insidious treaties we have now? If the Tea Party Senators Jim DeMint, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio are listening we need to immediately renegotiate our trade agreements with every country involved, because they are laughing behind our backs. From what planet did these trade ambassador morons in our nations Department of Commerce hail from, a lunatic asylum for brain dead zombies? The imports from China are so bad; I refuse to buy them anymore. Trump goes on to say, “we make hardly anything anymore, importing things like glass, curtains So much product is made in China.

    Donald, stated,” We are rebuilding China. Our economy is just getting killed. And you look at China it is going through the roof. A friend of mine went to a pretty much new city in China. They said unbelievable the airport and everything else. They come back to LaGuardia. They said it is like coming into a third world country. It is horrible what has happened. So somebody is going to get smart. They talk about the economy, incentives. We are losing our jobs to other countries. You are not going to solve unemployment unless something very, very stringent is done with regard to China and other countries.” Greta Van Sustern replied, so what do we do to get jobs? ” I would tax Chinese products. People say that’s not free trade. What is free trade when they have billions and billions of dollars of surplus over us? So we don’t want free trade with people that are ripping us.

    He went on to say,” But they manipulated their currency so it is hard to compete with Chinese dollars, cost. What happens is the dollar versus Chinese currency is not competitive.” What I would do is I would tax like 25 percent tax. You want to buy from China, that’s great. But you are paying 25 percent tax. If you buy it in this country you don’t have that tax. By the way, you know what is going happen? People are going to start creating jobs in this country because they are not going to pay that tax. Trump Concluded, “People tell me, Donald, that’s not free trade. We don’t have free trade right now. We have a country, China in particular, that is ripping us like nobody’s ripped us before. And we are rebuilding China. Our country is so big in terms of what we buy that we are rebuilding China. And in 10 years to 12 years China will have a bigger economy than us which was unthinkable five years ago.

    Bloggers Unite–start writing about this so called—FREE TRADE–as we must educate the people. This is–NOT–free trade? It’s a very large money tree, to cheap Chinese importers, with huge profits. Half the stuff from cut price countries is made with poor quality material, not like the far superior those once-upon-a-time goods we manufactured here. China is building the huge military complex on our dollars they take from us? America is falling beside the wayside and no country can exist on just being a service industry. The Tea party now has a solid foundation, with a growing base of Senators and Representatives. I for one are going to contact as many as I can, to push this new lease on life against both the doldrums brought on us by morose agendas of Liberal Democrats and the RNC. This issue is probably one of the most important agendas that must be enforced.

    Think about this–America is so large, we could rebuild our own country in selling products across State lines. We don’t even need foreign importation of goods? As for the discussion on jobs with Mr. Trump, I too think he would make a great president. It’s time the political parties come to some mutual arrangement and bring back jobs this country. Impose taxes on all foreign imports and on businesses that outsource jobs. Stop attracting illegal immigrants, by severing all welfare and government subsidies and placing painful prison sentences on businesses that hire them. Return our government to the people and leave states alone such as Arizona, to enforce their own policing laws such as SB1170. GOOGLE—Judicial Watch and learn about the corruption within our government, from the questionable special interest lobbyists. We must change this so-called Free Trade, as right now is not working for the American people.

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