Thu, Nov 15, 2007 - Page 11 News List

S Korea sweetens the deal with EU on free trade talks

AFP , SEOUL

South Korea has improved its tariff offers to try to make a breakthrough in free trade talks with the EU, a top trade official said yesterday.

Chief negotiator Kim Han-Soo (金韓洙) said the sweetened offers would be sent to the EU before both sides resume talks in Brussels on Monday.

"We have improved our own tariff offers," he told reporters, urging the EU to reciprocate by improving its own offers especially in the field of cars and electronic goods.

After talks in Seoul last month, the EU expressed disappointment with South Korea's offer, claiming it fell short of a free trade deal Seoul struck with the US in June.

Brussels has offered to eliminate or phase out all its import tariffs on South Korean goods within seven years, and to remove tariffs on 80 percent of them within three years.

Seoul has offered to remove tariffs on 68 percent of EU goods within three years, demanding some exceptions since imports of pork and dairy goods still remain sensitive issues for many South Koreans.

The EU has offered to eliminate a 10 percent tariff on imported autos within seven years.

It wants South Korea to ease regulations on European cars by applying less restrictive international technical standards. South Korea's tariff rate on cars is eight percent.

The EU is South Korea's second-largest trading partner after China with nearly US$80 billion in two-way trade last year.

A free trade deal with the EU would be the biggest-ever for South Korea, surpassing the agreement signed with the US which awaits ratification by legislatures in both countries.

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