Negotiations on the FTA between the U.S. and So. Korea have to be wrapped up this week if the current U.S. trade promotion authority is to be used. Kelly Olsen reports on the intense ongoing negotiations in Seoul: U.S.-S.Korea Trade Talks Down to Wire (AP via Houston Chronicle, March 29). Kim Deok-hyun reports on the closing hours of the negotiations: S. Korea-U.S. FTA talks head for conclusion amid optimistic notes (Yonhap News, March 30)
There was a hitch on Friday: U.S., S.Korea trade talks stumble at last minute (Jack Kim, Reuters, March 30) - no word in the story on what the problem was. The U.S. evidently decided that it could delay completion of the negotiations as late as noon on Sunday, April 1, and still meet the conditions necessary for consideration of an agreement under current trade promotion authority. Heejin Koo reports: U.S., South Korea Extend Their Free-Trade Talks (Bloomberg, March 30).
Evan Ramstad reports on what's at stake for Korea in the negotiations: South Korea Ready to Open Up (Wall Street Journal, March 28 - illustration accompanies the Journal article):
...South Korea's economy now faces a problem. While it grew by 8% to 9% a year for much of the 1990s, its growth has recently slowed to 5%. A key reason: Chinese competitors are taking away South Korea's lead in low-cost manufacturing and threatening South Korea's higher-value industries.
To boost the economy, President Roh Moo Hyun says South Korea needs to do away with the old growth model and open up. He initiated the trade talks two years ago, hoping to attract more foreign investment and stimulate service industries, which account for 48% of the South Korean economy, compared with about 70% in the U.S.
Mr. Roh has also started free-trade negotiations with Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and is exploring talks with the European Union and the six Arab states that form the Gulf Cooperation Council.
The free-trade talks come as South Korea strives to make other efforts to speed up its economic growth. Regulators are pushing to make the country's businesses more transparent in hopes of boosting global competitiveness, addressing criticism that South Korea had weak accounting and disclosure standards. The country has opened its banking sector to foreign owners and competitors, resulting in the fast growth of global players such as HSBC Holdings PLC and a variety of new financial services.
In another article, Ramstad reports that agriculture is a key to the negotiations: U.S.-South Korean Trade Talks May Turn on Beef, Rice Imports (Wall Street Journal, March 30). Ramstad's got an interesting story to tell: