The United States welcomed Friday an agreement reached with South Korea on a pharmaceutical pricing system that had impeded bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) talks but denied it was a concession on its part.
Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler, Washington's chief negotiator for FTA talks with South Korea, told reporters via a telephone news conference that the two nations reached "a way forward on the pharmaceutical issue."
The negotiators will meet for further discussions in Singapore Aug. 21-22.
Seoul announced revisions to the country's drug insurance policy last month that would not automatically put new drugs on its patient reimbursement list, commonly called the "positive list" system. Seoul says the revisions are part of medical reforms and are aimed at providing quality medicine to South Koreans at a lower price.
American competitors strongly oppose the changes, arguing that they will hurt U.S. firms that come up with majority of new drugs and now must apply each time to get on South Korea's reimbursement list.
The issue forced a second round of FTA negotiations in Seoul last month to end early. The next FTA talks are slated for Seattle in early September.
South Korea's Health and Welfare Ministry announced in Seoul earlier that the U.S. has accepted South Korea's new drug policy.
"We are not, quote and unquote, accepting it," Cutler told reporters.
She said the South Korean government promised transparency and to open to review its process of choosing eligible drugs.
"We want to make sure pricing decisions are made in a transparent manner," she said.
South Korea and the U.S. hope to come up with a final FTA draft by end of this year to make use of the Trade Promotion Authority, a temporary law that requires the U.S. Congress to vote up or down on the trade agreements without amendments.
The authority expires in July next year.
Washington, Aug. 11 (Yonhap News)