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Report: White House working to finalize free trade deal with Korea


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Report: White House working to finalize free trade deal with Korea

by Chris Shunk (RSS feed) on Nov 5th 2010 at 4:15PM

The Detroit News reports that the U.S. government and South Korea are working to finalize a free trade deal in advance of the November 11 G20 summit in Seoul. The two countries already came to an agreement back in 2007, but the Bush administration didn't submit the pact to Congress for approval. Ford and Chrysler spoke out against the agreement in its current form due to the large automotive trade gap between the two countries. Through August of this year, the trade deficit sat at $6.8 billion dollars, up from $4.8 billion in 2009, and Korean automakers have imported a reported 411,000 vehicles Stateside compared to only 7,600 U.S. vehicles that were brought to Korea.

A big reason Detroit metal doesn't sell in Korea is the country's eight percent tariff on autos, compared to a 2.5 percent tariff for auto imports to the U.S. Korean ambassador to the U.S. Han Duk-Soo says that removing the larger tax on U.S. vehicles will help sell more Motown Metal and points to the fact that European and Japanese automakers export about 80,000 vehicles to Korea annually as proof.



White House working to reach Korea free trade deal ahead of summit

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington— The White House said it is working to try to finalize a deal with South Korea on a long-stalled Free Trade Agreement ahead of the G20 summit in Seoul on Nov. 11.

U.S. and Korean negotiators met in San Francisco last week to try to resolve disputes over U.S. exports of beef and autos, and are continuing to meet over the next 10 days.

The U.S. has asked Korea to agree to allow U.S. automobiles to enter the Korean market if they passed U.S. emissions and safety standards, according to published reports.

The White House didn't comment on any offers it has proposed.

Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC oppose the FTA in its current form. They argue that the Korea Free Trade Agreement — signed by President George W. Bush in 2007 but never submitted to Congress for approval — doesn't do enough to clear barriers to U.S. vehicles. They contend "non-tariff" barriers could still keep out U.S. vehicles.

Mike Froman, deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, said the government is in "dialogue" over a number of auto issues.

"We're going to make maximum effort to try to resolve the outstanding issues," Froman told reporters at the White House today. "We're going to put every effort into achieving an acceptable agreement, a satisfactory agreement by the time the president comes to Seoul."

Asked if the White House had a target for U.S. auto sales in Korea, Froman declined to answer.

But he said the U.S. wants a deal that "expands access for competitive U.S. products."

Last month, 21 U.S. House members sent a letter to President Barack Obama and Korean President Lee Myung-bak urging them to "make meaningful changes" that will foster "balanced and fair economic exchange between two countries."

The signers included Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, and Rep. Dale Kildee, D-Flint.

The Korean government is eager for the agreement. Its ambassador to the United States, Han Duk-Soo, has been crisscrossing the country lobbying in favor of the agreement.

Last week, he invited reporters covering trade issues to a dinner at his official residence in Washington to again urge approval of the agreement. He said he was "cautiously optimistic" a deal could be reached.

At an event in Detroit in August, the ambassador said U.S. auto imports "can and should be increased a lot more."

He told the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce that the agreement "will actually make things better, not worse, for the auto industry and its workers."

He argued the deal "will open fully an increasingly affluent consumer market to U.S. automakers by erasing the 8 percent tariff they pay on all their exports to Korea while the U.S. will eliminate its tariff of only 2.5 percent."

Last year, about 7,600 U.S.-built vehicles were purchased in Korea, versus more than 411,000 exported to the U.S.

Through August, the U.S. auto sector trade deficit with Korea was $6.8 billion — up from $4.8 billion over the same period in 2009.

But U.S. auto sector exports to Korea increased to $464 million — more than double the $223 million in the same period in 2009.

The Korea Embassy also notes that General Motors Co. owns Korea's fourth largest automaker, GM-Daewoo. And they note that Japanese and European automakers now export about 80,000 vehicles to Korea annually.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20101101/AUTO01/11010390/1148/rss25#ixzz14SFYIiMF

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By Andrew Ganz

Officials from South Korea and the United States are meeting for a second day today to discuss concerns posed by Detroit automakers over entry into the lucrative, but tightly regulated Asian market. The two countries say that they hope to reach a deal before the G-20 summit commences later this week, although negotiations have stumbled with just hours to go.

Three years ago, a free trade pact nearly reached fruition, but legislators in both the U.S. and South Korea have not signed it into law. If enacted, the free trade agreement would be the largest signed by the U.S. since 1994′s North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

South Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk discussed auto industry trade between the two countries. South Korean standards have limited American automakers to less than 1 percent of the country’s market. The U.S. has called on South Korea to reduce its fuel economy and emissions standards and it wants the country to scrap the tariffs it applies to imported parts.

Detroit automakers have criticized current conditions that essentially prohibit them from successfully marketing cars in South Korea without relying on a domestic partner. General Motors’ GM Daewoo subsidiary has helped it penetrate the Korean market (pictured is a Buick-based Daewoo Alpheon), but Ford and Chrysler are outspoken critics.

Chrysler said in a statement that a free trade pact “must be used to fully and irreversibly open Korea to American-made vehicles.”



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