South Korean negotiator hints at renegotiation of free trade deal with U.S.

Posted on : 2007-05-18 17:23 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST

South Korea will "thoroughly consider" a potential proposal by the United States for reopening negotiations to revise some parts of a free trade agreement deal between the two nations, if the proposal reflects the interests of both sides, a senior negotiator said Friday.

A possibility of making changes to the agreement, which South Korea and the U.S. reached last month after 10 months of grueling negotiations, was raised after the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush and the Congress inked a bipartisan deal last week to include tougher labor and environmental rules in free trade pacts.

"If the U.S. officially asks for renegotiation of the South Korea-U.S. FTA (deal), we will thoroughly consider whether the proposal has an aspect of reflecting interests of both sides," Ambassador Kim Jong-hoon, South Korea's chief negotiator in free trade talks with the U.S., told a forum in Seoul.

Kim's remark, seen as the most positive comment so far by South Korean officials over a potential renegotiation of the trade pact, came two days after he warned a free trade pact between South Korea and the U.S. could fail if Washington requests Seoul to revise it to reflect the new U.S. trade policy guidelines.

In a telephone interview with Yonhap News Agency on Wednesday, Kim said, "If the U.S. demands South Korea renegotiate to reflect its unilateral view, we could break down the agreement."

At the forum with business leaders, Kim said the U.S. is believed to seek to revise labor and environmental terms of the agreement, saying the U.S. side wants to set up common labor standards between the two nations under a free trade deal.

"In particular, Democratic leaders in the U.S. Congress have argued to build a common standard that will be applied for both countries," Kim said.

Under the new U.S. trade policy guidelines, a free trade agreement should reflect higher standards to protect workers' rights, including a right for workers to form a union and ban on employment discrimination.

A majority of Democrats, who gained control of the U.S. Congress in November last year, supported the new guidelines, which will affect pending free trade agreements that the U.S. has reached with Peru, Panama, Columbia and South Korea.

The South Korea-U.S. pact, expected to be signed by the end of June, should be ratified by South Korea's National Assembly and the U.S. Congress.

An agreement with South Korea is the first commercial partnership for the U.S. in Northeast Asia. South Korea, Asia's third-largest economy, and the U.S. already did US$78 billion a year in trade.
SEOUL, May 18 (Yonhap News)

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