U.S. Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton is pushing for renegotiation of a free-trade agreement (FTA) between the U.S. and South Korea, terms of which had long been held up by an impasse over Seoul's restrictions on imports of U.S. beef, Meatingplace.com reports.
Clinton's main beef, and that of the Obama administration, is an imbalance in auto trade. "If the South Koreans are willing to re-engage negotiations on these vital provisions of the agreement, we will work with them to get to resolution," she said in written responses to questions from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
However, reopening belabored discussions on the bilateral trade deal may not bode so well for U.S. beef. South Korea agreed to resume imports of U.S. beef last year only under pressure from Washington, which had threatened to scrap the FTA altogether if Seoul didn't lift its ban on U.S. beef. The FTA itself promises reduced tariffs on U.S. beef and pork imports.
But Seoul hasn't budged on the auto provisions, trying instead to get the deal approved by its own legislature in order to put pressure on U.S. Congress to approve the deal.
Democrats in control of Congress criticized the Bush administration for failing to change auto provisions in the pact.
"If they fought as hard for cars as they did for beef, we wouldn't have that problem," Charles Rangel, chairman of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, said during a meeting to discuss the panel's priorities for the year.