USTR to closely look at S Korea-EU FTA in review of S Korea-U.S. deal

16:48, October 20, 2009      

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The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR)said it will keep closely looking at the South Korea-EU free trade agreement (FTA) in its review of the S. Korea-U.S. deal, local media reported Tuesday.

"The recently initialed (South) Korea-EU FTA has similarities to, and differences from, the (South) Korea-U.S. (KORUS) FTA," said USTR spokeswoman Carol Guthrie.

"We look forward to engaging with (South) Korea and the EU to fully understand the agreement and its implications for the United States. USTR will carefully consider this agreement as it continues its review of the KORUS FTA," she added.

The remarks along with the USTR's release of a preliminary comparison of the South Korea-EU FTA, initialed on Oct. 15 in Brussels, with the pending KORUS deal.

According to the analysis, the two deals are similar in terms of tariff commitments for industrial goods, with South Korean tariffs eliminated 92 percent in three years under the South Korea-E.U. deal and 94.5 percent under the KORUS pact.

However, the analysis singled out auto trade clauses as the sector where the two pacts contrasted, citing key differences in the "snap-back" remedy, tax system, and automotive safety standards.

"In particular, KORUS has a specific enforcement mechanism that includes the ability to 'snap back' U.S. tariffs on (South) Korean cars if (South) Korea takes measures that impair the Agreement's expected benefits," the analysis said, adding that the (South) Korea-EU FTA does not allow for a "snap back" remedy.

Under the KORUS pact, South Korea also committed to eliminate many aspects of the discriminatory effect of its current automotive tax system, while the Korea-EU FTA simply affirms that any modifications to South Korean autos taxes will be made on an MFN basis, it said.

"The two agreements take a different approach to address the issue of unique (South) Korean automotive safety standards," the analysis said, giving a detailed comparison of the differences.

"USTR will look into this issue further and consult with stakeholders to fully understand the commercial implications of this difference," it added.

Since South Korea and the U.S. sealed the pact in 2007, its approval in both countries has been slowed with some opposition groups urging it has to be modified in terms related to agriculture in South Korea and automobiles in the U.S..

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