S. Korean Trade Minister Reiterates No FTA Renegotiation
South Korea's top trade official said Thursday that the government would not respond to a possible demand from the United States to amend a bilateral free trade accord, according to Yonhap News.
"Even if the U.S. proposes renegotiations of the free trade deal, we don't need to respond to it," Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon was quoted as saying on a local radio program.
U.S. President Barack Obama, who was sworn in Tuesday, has said he favors free trade that benefits the U.S. but strongly criticized the deal with South Korea, known as the KORUS FTA, saying it does not adequately address an imbalance in auto trade between the two allies.
Some politicians in the U.S. have recently underscored the need for South Korea to renegotiate provisions of the pact covering trade in autos and other manufactured goods.
In particular, many Democrats believe auto provisions strongly favor South Korea's automakers and demand renegotiation of the trade accord on that basis. South Korea sold more than 700,000 vehicles in the U.S. in 2007, 100 times the number of American cars it imported, according to an industry tally.
Under the free trade deal the two sides agreed to phase out tariffs on autos, while Seoul agreed to change its tax system for larger vehicles, which the U.S. says is discriminatory.
"If the U.S. automakers want to increase their market share in South Korea, the KORUS FTA will be a good opportunity for them," Kim said. "All the things they have sought for years are included in the pact."
The accord is the largest for the U.S. since the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico and the biggest ever for South Korea. The bill, if ratified, will knock down tariff and non-tariff barriers between the two economies, which did $78.4 billion in two-way trade in 2007.
The agreement has yet to be put to a vote in either of the U.S. and South Korean legislatures.