South Korea, U.S. go down to wire on trade talks

November 9, 2010

By Jack Kim

(Reuters) – Talks on reworking a free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States andSouth Korea are going down to the wire, with the two sides trying to resolve differences on cars before their leaders meet on Thursday.

South Korean Minister for Trade Kim Jong-hoon and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, meeting for a second day, were unable to resolve issues raised by the U.S. auto industry and holding up approval by the U.S. Congress.

“Discussions are ongoing and the situation is extremely variable,” South Korea’s Deputy Minister for Trade overseeing FTA negotiations, Choi Seok-young, told a briefing. “The trade ministers will meet again tomorrow.”

Choi said Tuesday’s discussions centered on U.S. concerns that the deal signed three years ago does not do enough to ensure access to South Korea’s auto market for U.S. manufacturers.

“The U.S. side has raised concerns on automobile fuel mileage and greenhouse gas emission standards,” Choi said, declining to disclose further details.

Washington has said South Korea’s auto standards discriminate against American cars and act as non-tariff barriers, keeping their market share at less than one percent.

The two countries hope to reach a deal before President Barack Obama meets South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on the sidelines of the November 11-12 G20 summit.

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