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SKorea remains against redo of US free trade deal

SKorea remains against redo of US free trade deal

South Korea said Tuesday it remains opposed to renegotiating a free trade agreement with the United States after hawkish comments on the landmark deal by the man nominated to be President Barack Obama's top trade official.
Ron Kirk, Obama's pick to be U.S. trade representative, told a Senate hearing Monday that the agreement with South Korea "simply isn't fair." He added that if problems cannot be rectified Washington was ready to "step away" from it.
South Korea and the United States reached the accord nearly two years ago, with both governments touting it as a boon not only to trade but as a further cementing of close ties between key security allies.
But the deal, the biggest for the U.S. since the North American Free Trade Agreement in the 1990s, has since languished amid political changes in both countries and the global financial crisis. It requires ratification by lawmakers in both countries to take effect.
South Korea has said repeatedly that there is no need for renegotiation and reiterated that position Tuesday.
Choi Kyong-lim, director-general for free trade agreement policy at South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said the country remains opposed to revisiting the deal, which he said would be "like opening a Pandora's box."
He also suggested, however, that Kirk's comments should not be taken too seriously.
"We do not believe it represents the official position of the U.S. government," Choi said.
Criticism of the proposed deal in the U.S. has centered on auto trade. Americans annually buy hundreds of thousands of South Korean vehicles, while Detroit's sales in South Korea can be counted in the thousands.
Choi said that the U.S. has even bigger deficits in autos with other trade partners, including Japan, and emphasized that bilateral farm trade between South Korea and the U.S. heavily favors Washington.
Kim Eun-hye, a spokeswoman for President Lee Myung-bak, said that once Kirk is confirmed and assumes his duties, South Korea "will actively explain" to the U.S. that the free trade deal will prove mutually beneficial "under the current economic difficulties."
The agreement has ignited passions in South Korea, sparking street protests during the 10 months of negotiations and a major brawl in the National Assembly in December.
The main opposition Democratic Party has accused the government of failing to ensure measures are in place to help farmers and others seen as vulnerable to a surge in U.S. imports.


Updated : 2021-06-25 22:05 GMT+08:00