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KORUS Text May be Released May 25

South Korea and the United States have been in discussions to release the full text of a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) on Friday, a senior trade official said Wednesday, amid an indication that the deal’s renegotiation is imminent.

Yonhap 2007/05/23

South Korea, U.S. may release full text of FTA on Friday, official says

SEOUL, May 23 (Yonhap) — South Korea and the United States have been in discussions to release the full text of a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) on Friday, a senior trade official said Wednesday, amid an indication that the deal’s renegotiation is imminent.

South Korea and the U.S. reached a landmark free trade pact in early April after 10 months of gruelling negotiations. The deal, expected to be signed by the end of June, needs to be ratified by South Korea’s National Assembly and the U.S. Congress.

There has been a high possibility of changes to the agreement since the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress inked a bipartisan deal early this month to include tougher labor and environmental rules in free trade pacts.

"Discussions are underway with the U.S. to release the full text," Deputy Trade Minister Kim Han-soo said in a forum earlier in the day, reiterating the U.S. has yet officially request South Korea to renegotiate the deal.

South Korean officials worry that if the deal is altered to improve labor rights, it could deal a blow to local businesses, which are strong supporters of the deal.

On Tuesday, Ambassador Kim Jong-hoon, South Korea’s chief negotiator in free trade talks with the U.S., said at a parliamentary meeting that the government would consider "mutual interests" if the U.S. officially proposes a renegotiation.

Asked about the likelihood that the U.S. Congress could vote against the deal if it is not renegotiated, Kim replied, "I think the U.S. administration is more concerned about that scenario." Under the new U.S. trade policy guidelines, a free trade agreement should reflect higher standards to protect workers’ rights, including the right of workers to form a union and a ban on discrimination in employment.

 

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