S. Korea says no to FTA renegotiation

Nov. 19, 2009 at 10:39 PM
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SEOUL, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- The June 2007 South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement cannot be renegotiated, a South Korean presidential official said Friday.

The agreement, signed during the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, has yet to be ratified by both countries' legislatures because of issues relating to auto trade and beef shipments. The South Korean official told Yonhap news agency his government will cite its own concerns if the United States demands a renegotiation.

"If we do ever have to discuss the issue in the auto industry with the U.S., we will make sure there are discussions about the agricultural sector where we have our own complaints," said the official, whose name was not reported.

The explanation comes a day after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, speaking at a news conference with visiting U.S. President Barack Obama, had been quoted as saying his country was willing to "talk" with the United States on the auto trade issue. There is concern about potential adverse impact on the U.S. auto industry if the FTA is implemented and South Korea has said it has concerns about the FTA's impact on its agricultural sector.

Lee's remark stirred speculation South Korea was willing to renegotiate the agreement but South Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon said earlier the president's comment only meant the country was willing to discuss the issue.

"But I believe most of the problems they (the U.S.) prepare and bring to us, if they do, will be those that can be addressed by simple explanations," Kim was quoted as saying.

An opposition party lawmaker said his side will never accept changing the agreement.

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