April 12, 2009

USTR aims to preserve Seoul trade pact

The U.S. Trade Representative is aiming to avoid renegotiating a proposed U.S.-South Korean free trade deal, Seoul officials say.

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the office of ruling party lawmaker Rep. Hong Jung-wook Sunday confirmed a U.S. trade journal report that Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Danny Sepulveda told business interests the USTR wants to address opposition to the trade deal without changing its text, something that goes against the reported aims of U.S. President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats, the South Korean news agency Yonhap said.

The two countries reached a free trade agreement in 2007, but ratification by Washington has been delayed due to opposition from Obama, who during his presidential campaign labeled the deal badly flawed, saying it doesn't do enough to narrow South Korea's huge trade advantage.

South Korea strongly opposes changing the terms of the pact, which drew strong criticism from opposition parties, Yonhap said.