Thursday, March 12, 2009

EU Says S.Korea Trade Talks at 'Crucial' Point

EU Says S.Korea Trade Talks at 'Crucial' Point

EU negotiations with South Korea on a sweeping free trade pact have entered a final crunch period, with talks due to resume later this month, a European Commission spokesman said Friday. "After two years of negotiations, we are at a crucial point and close to closing the deal," an EU spokesman said. "With a little bit more negotiation and the right political will we will be able to complete this."

After a delay of several weeks, chief negotiators are now due to make a final push in an eighth round of talks on March 22-23 in Korea before negotiations move up to ministerial level to conclude.

Commentary: I'm glad to see the EU is making progress with Korean after two years whereas Canada has bogged down and seen decline in trade over the last nearly decade of negotiations with Korea on an FTA.

The pact would go farther than all other free trade agreements the European Union has, scrapping tariffs on 97% of trade between Europe and South Korea within five years of entering into force.

Commentary: Would these include scrapping Uruguray Round trade subsidies in import and export agricultural products or effective ratitification of Doha Round?

European car makers called for a halt in the negotiations last month, arguing the European Union risked getting too little from South Korea in return for granting it full access to European markets. The BusinessEurope employers association wrote to EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton this week voicing the concerns of some sectors that Seoul would be able to keep a duty drawback scheme indefinitely. Under such a scheme, Korean car manufacturers are refunded for duties paid on cheap imported parts from China when they build cars for the European market.

Commentary: Koreans appear adept at keeping their trading partners on their toes!

A European Commission source said on condition of anonymity that the auto sector was one of three industries on which important progress had been made along with pharmaceuticals and consumer electronics. However, the commission source was "doubtful" that the duty drawback issue could be solved by the chief negotiators because the Koreans were insisting on keeping it.

Commentary: Would this align with certain principles and concepts of concessions or compromise which are never intended to be made without mutual give and take?

Despite the opposition of European car makers, the source said that "not a single member state has said that it would not be a good idea to conclude an agreement," while acknowledging that "a number had expressed concerns."

Commentary: I am sure concerns are expressed however it is clear the media does not intend to highlight which member states have done so? How very communitarian of them.

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