S Korea, U.S. continue last-minute negotiations over free trade deal

21:46, November 10, 2010      

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Top trade officials from South Korea and the United States on Wednesday continued negotiations for the third day in a row over their two-way trade pact awaiting legislative approval in both countries, local media reported.

South Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon and his U.S. counterpart Ron Kirk managed to iron out differences on auto issues, which have for long stopped the trade deal from getting approval from lawmakers, as South Korea "hinted at" concession, according to Yonhap News Agency.

The U.S. side has voiced concern that South Korea's strict environment and safety standards would further hamper its already low car sales here.

The impasse over beef issues still remains unresolved, according to local reports. The United States calls on South Korea to further open up the market and allow U.S. beef produced from cattle older than 30 months old into the country -- something South Korea has banned for fear of mad cow disease.

Wednesday's last-minute negotiations came only a day before South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama, meet for one-on-one talks on the sidelines of the G20 summit among the world's major economies.

They previously agreed to reach a final compromise on the trade agreement, originally struck in 2007, with local reports saying the two might make a major announcement on the deal that would help speed up the ratification process.

Meanwhile, South Korea's opposition parties agreed to stand together against ratifying the renegotiated trade deal, blaming the government for making undue concessions in closed-door meetings.

Source: Xinhua


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