- The Washington Times - Friday, October 20, 2006


A senior Bush administration trade official yesterday cited the importance of the South Korean free-trade agreement now under negotiation in the aftermath of North Korea’s nuclear test.

“I think recent events have demonstrated how important it is that the U.S.-South Korean partnership remains strong,” Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Karan Bhatia told reporters before leaving on a weeklong trip to South Korea and China.

“I won’t claim that economics is the whole ball game, but I do think that the kind of ties that could be established through a Korea-U.S. FTA would help ensure that for years to come that partnership would be very strong and resolute — it would create both government-to-government ties and business-to-business ties that I think would help ensure that the U.S. and South Korea remain partners in all ventures,” he said.

A round of U.S.-South Korean talks on the proposed trade agreement are to be held next week in South Korea, to be followed by talks on an agreement with Malaysia.

Thailand’s recent coup, however, has put a hold on any chances for a trade agreement with that country, Mr. Bhatia said.

The administration had been holding informal talks with Thailand to try to create a basis for resuming formal negotiations after the Thai elections that had been planned for November, he said.

“Obviously, now all of that’s off, and those negotiations are suspended,” he said.

—Steve Hirsch

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