Leading US official rules out renegotiation of free trade pact

Dong-A-Ilbo, Seoul

Leading US official rules out renegotiation of free trade pact

4 May 2012

Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler ruled out renegotiation of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement on Thursday, saying the deal had been in effect for just six weeks. Her comments foreshadowed a tough time for the Korean government’s efforts to revise the investor-state dispute settlement system under the accord.

In a dialogue with students at Sookmyung Women’s University in Seoul, Cutler, who was the chief U.S. negotiator for the agreement, said Washington was ready to listen to Seoul`s concerns but showed a negative response to the proposed renegotiation of the trade deal. She said renegotiation would not be easy because the agreement was reached through joint efforts by more than 20 subcommittees, adding, “I would like to focus on how to maximize the effects of the FTA."

In November last year before the National Assembly ratified the accord, Korean President Lee Myung-bak proposed to renegotiate the agreement within three months after its implementation. Back then, the U.S. Trade Representative said it was ready to consult with Korea over any issues raised by Seoul on the pact. Cutler’s comments are interpreted as a statement that while Washington will sit down for talks with Seoul on the proposed renegotiation, discussions are one thing and revision is another.

The Korean government said that in the first meeting slated for May 16 of the joint committee for the agreement, both sides will discuss a services and investment committee meeting on the proposed renegotiation. The trade ministers of the two countries will attend the meeting. In October last year, Seoul and Washington exchanged letters between their trade chiefs agreeing to establish a services and investment committee within 90 days after the deal`s effectuation.

On Thursday, Cutler said the implementation of the agreement meant that the two countries had become “true partners” in all aspects, urging both sides to take advantage of the agreement so that their governments and businesses can benefit. Despite many controversies, she added that both sides should think about how to maximize the benefits from the accord while not considering political issues.