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U.S. FTA may still be delayed: Kim

Consultations taking longer than expected; report predicts February implementation


Korea’s Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said the implementation of the free trade agreement between South Korea and the U.S. could be delayed until after Jan. 1, as further consultations with the U.S. may be needed.

“Although we hope to have the Korea-U.S. FTA take effect on Jan. 1 next year, it might take a longer time for consultations on the implementation,” Kim told business leaders at a CEO forum in Seoul.
Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan speaks at a CEO forum on free trade in East Asia and the situation on the Korean Peninsula in Seoul on Monday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan speaks at a CEO forum on free trade in East Asia and the situation on the Korean Peninsula in Seoul on Monday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)

“If the FTA takes effect, we will immediately start consultations with the U.S. on the investor-state dispute settlement system, as President Lee (Myung-bak) ordered previously.”

Earlier on Thursday, U.S. Inside Trade reported that U.S. trade officials are still reviewing implementation steps and will find it difficult to make the Korea-U.S. FTA take effect before mid-February, quoting unnamed sources.

Kim also saw bright prospects for Korea signing free trade deals with China and Japan in the future.

He noted that Korea has concluded free trade agreements with 45 countries and blocs including Chile, the U.S., the EU, India and ASEAN, but not with China and Japan yet.

“If Korea signs a free trade deal with China and Japan, Korea will have one of the largest FTA networks in the world,” Kim said.

As for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multilateral FTA among the U.S. and the Asia-Pacific region, Kim said Korea has little economic reason to rush to join the TPP because nine TPP participating countries either have already signed an FTA with Korea or are in negotiations with Korea.

However, Kim said that he will also take into account the opportunity cost if the TPP launches without Korea’s participation.

Kim also said the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit, due in March in Seoul, may put “considerable pressure” on North Korea to give up its uranium enrichment program.

Pyongyang has long claimed that its nuclear program has a peaceful purpose for electricity generation, but outsiders suspect it is for military use.

The upcoming nuclear security summit is expected to focus on how to prevent the spread of nuclear materials into the hands of terrorists.

By Kim Yoon-mi (yoonmi@heraldcorp.com)
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