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Old 11-01-2006, 08:44 AM   #1
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Default S. Korea ready to make concessions on car imports under FTA with U.S.: official

S. Korea ready to make concessions on car imports under FTA with U.S.: official


SEOUL, Nov. 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is willing to make concessions on its controversial car tax system Washington says is discriminatory against large-sized U.S. vehicles, the country's top free trade negotiator said Wednesday.

The remarks by Kim Jong-hoon are welcome news for the United States ahead of a fifth round of free trade talks with South Korea to be held from Dec. 4-8 at the Montana ski resort of Big Sky.

U.S. officials have identified cars as one of the most important issues that should be addressed with priority in ongoing free trade agreement talks with South Korea.

"Regarding the automobile issue, we have to figure out what we will win or what we will lose," the top South Korean negotiator, Ambassador Kim Jong-hoon, said on local MBC radio, pointing out that the U.S. is the world's largest market of cars and other goods.

South Korea sold more than 4 million cars abroad in 2005, including 800,000 in the U.S. But foreign car imports remained at a mere 30,000 in 2005, a fraction of 1.3 million sold at home that year.

Washington has long complained that U.S. car sales in South Korea have been low because of the country's "unfair" system that levies significantly higher taxes on cars with large engine size.

Kim said South Korea is prepared to address such U.S. complaints in future talks.

He said that if the U.S. phases out its average 2.5 percent tariff on imported South Korean cars under a free trade agreement, it will significantly benefit domestic automakers.

Under the deal, if signed, South Korea will have to eliminate or phase out its average 8 percent tariffs on imported cars, he said.

Kim hoped that his planned concessions on cars would spur the slow-moving talks with the U.S. Despite some progress made in the fourth round in South Korea last week, both sides acknowledged that there still remain wide differences in automobile, agriculture, textiles and other sensitive areas.

Kim also clarified that South Korea would no longer link the automobile issue with progress in other contentious areas, including agriculture and textiles.

"If they are linked, there is a high possibility that the talks would end up in failure," he said.

The United States, the world's largest economy, is South Korea's second largest export market after China. For the U.S., South Korea, the world's 12th largest economy, is its 7th largest trading partner. Two-way trade totaled US$72 billion in 2005.

Although their FTA talks, launched in June, are unlikely to be wrapped up by the end of the year as originally hoped, both sides are hopeful that they will eventually able to clinch a deal by early next year.

The two sides have already agreed to carry the talks into next year, scheduling a sixth round in South Korea in January.

South Korea and the U.S. are under pressure to complete the negotiations before U.S. President George W. Bush's "fast-track" trade promotion authority expires on June 30.

The authority binds the U.S. Congress to say "yes," or "no" about a free trade deal without amending it.

On Monday, the chief U.S. negotiator, Assistant Trade Representative Wendy Cutler, expressed optimism about future negotiations.

"The key is to get these negotiations right and if that takes a little more time, in our view that is time well spent," Cutler said in a conference call with reporters.

"We have a very good shot at concluding these negotiations under the TPA deadline," she said, referring the Bush's Trade Promotion Authority.
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Old 11-01-2006, 10:28 AM   #2
John C
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Import tarriffs are the least of their worries in a country where buying foreign can get you hauled in front of your boss, lose a promotion or even get your taxes audited.

To say that S.Korea's car market is nationalistic is an understatement...
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Old 11-01-2006, 08:50 PM   #3
rice h8r
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^ where did you get that from?
Koreans like foreign cars esp BMW and Benz.
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Old 11-01-2006, 09:37 PM   #4
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Taxing on engine size is common, and not a bad idea. IMO South Korea shouldn't have to bow to the US on this, sell them cars with smaller engines.
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