Last week, from October 23 to 27, the U.S. and So. Korea held the 4th negotiating session on their proposed Free Trade Agreement.
This post is a collection of links to, and "clippings" from, news coverage of the session. Korean coverage of the negotiations was much more extensive and detailed than U.S. coverage, so the post may reflect Korean interests and perspectives disproportionately. I'll update this post if I get new information.
The negotiations took place in the Korean city of Seogwipo on Cheju or Jeju Island. This story from The Hankyoreh, "Jeju Island opposed to hosting FTA talks," explains that the Jeju government wanted to see the negotiations take place somewhere else, because they expect the FTA to hurt the local economy, particularly tangerine agriculture.
As in earlier negotiating sessions, the round had a number of separate issue-oriented negotiating groups: "The round will deal with 16 divisions, including commercial goods, agricultural products, and textiles, and working-level negotiations in automobile and pharmaceutical areas. Government procurement division negotiations were held separately in Geneva on October 16. " (4th Round of Free Trade Talks Begin , The Dong-A Ilbo, Oct. 23) This Korean Embassy website lists all the different divisions of the negotiations, as they stood in the spring, and names the Korean and U.S. officials in charge of each: Free Trade Agreement .
My impression is that the negotiators were more upbeat after this round of talks than they had sometimes been, following earlier rounds. The People's Daily Online (S.Korea says progress made in FTA talks with U.S., Oct. 28) quotes chief U.S. negotiator Wendy Cutler,
"In general, I think we moved forward the talks," said U.S. chief negotiator Wendy Cutler, who also works as assistant U.S. trade representative. "This is a big step forward from the previous rounds."
Cutler said considerable progress was made in customs, re- manufactured goods, administration of agricultural tariff rate quotas and anti-corruption provision during the talks. She acknowledged that wide gaps still remain in agriculture, industry and other sensitive sectors.
The chief Korean negotiator, Kim Jong-hoon, was also upbeat (Korea, U.S. Wrap up Fourth Round of FTA Negotiations with Practical Progress, Oct 27):
Kim Jong-hoon, chief negotiator for Korea to the bilateral trade negotiations, stressed at a new conference after the talks ended, “"During this round, Seoul and Washington have made practical headway," saying that the U.S. offered Korea an improved concession to cut tariffs on some 1,000 industrial goods, which include mobile phones and other high-tech products of great interest to Korea..
Cutler said that the U.S. delegation had about 100 members, drawn from almost 20 agencies. Korea fielded a delegation of about 250 from 26 ministries, and 13 public institutions .... and 10,000 riot police (4th Round of Free Trade Talks Begin , The Dong-A Ilbo, Oct. 23); S. Korea-U.S. free trade talks resume, overshadowed by nuclear issue , The Hankyoreh, Oct. 22)