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USTR Needs Ideas On Autos To Complete FTA With S. Korea

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

During a speech to the Detroit Economic Club, the United States Trade Representative (USTR), Ron Kirk, has said that, while it was aware of concern in the auto sector about the United States-Korea free trade agreement (KORUS FTA), the government was convinced of the significant economic benefits that the agreement would bring.

There has been vocal opposition in the US to ratification of the KORUS FTA, particularly due to the perceived imbalance in trade between the two countries and the non-tariff barriers to imports into the Korean domestic auto market.

Kirk said that the US government would now “like to get the KORUS FTA into a place where it can be passed by Congress, because we see the significant economic and strategic benefits it could bring us. But to get to that place we need to address the concerns about fair trade in autos. We have let Korea know that we will have to work together so we can show the American people that US cars will be able to compete on a level playing field in Korea.”

“We at USTR are hard at work,” he added, “to develop ideas for addressing these concerns, and we will be consulting closely with members of Congress and other American stakeholders as we move down this path.”

However, until now, the South Korean government has refused to enter into any renegotiation of the bilateral agreement, which was signed in 2007.

Kirk also pointed to trade barriers that the US auto sector faced in Japan. "Japan has a long history of treating our exports unfairly, and in the autos sector in particular, our companies have too often been denied access,” he said. “Just recently we successfully pushed for changes to Japan's ‘cash-for-clunkers’ programme that is now giving US autos greater opportunities to qualify. We welcome this change, but believe more can and should be done by Japan to make its programme even more inclusive.”

He assured his audience that, in both Japan and South Korea, “we are paying close attention to these barriers and will continue to work to address them.”