The rest of the world is busy tearing down tariff borders by entering free trade agreements, such as the one between South Korea an the EU. Japan doesn’t want to stand on the sidelines and is in FTA negotiations with the EU. At the same time, the U.S. and Korea yesterday shitcanned their free trade plans. The reason? Cars. Allegedly.
In a terse statement, Reuters says that disagreement over the access of U.S. carmakers to the lucrative South Korean automobile market was the main reason the two countries failed to advance a long-stalled free trade pact. At least that’s what U.S. officials say.
“Mike Froman, an economic adviser to President Barack Obama, told reporters that there were a number of other sticking points, but autos had been the main obstacle to a deal.”
Korea’s Chosun has a completely different version: Cars are welcome. Dead cows killed the deal.
“Additional talks over a Korea-U.S. free trade agreement fell apart due to American insistence that Korea open its market to more U.S. beef exports.”
The Chosun has more choice words:
“But some points need to be made about the attitude the U.S. negotiators have taken in the talks. Korea accepted most of the U.S. demands to ease environmental and safety regulations for automobiles. That alone is enough to draw criticism from the Korean public for yielding to U.S. pressure. It shows how strong Korea’s will was to finally get the FTA on the road. But Korean officials apparently made it clear several times to their U.S. counterparts that the beef issue has to stay off the table.
The U.S. government knows full well how badly Korea was disrupted by mass protests as a result of talks with Washington over the resumption of beef imports back in 2008. Insisting that Seoul fully open its market to U.S. beef is like pushing the Korean government to pour gasoline on a fire. Yet still U.S. trade officials brought up the beef issue at the last minute, saying that the deal requires the support of lawmakers representing beef producing states. The U.S. must have legitimate reasons to do so, but it shows a lack of consideration for the negotiating partner. “
Actually, the dealbreakers were old cows. Worried about mad cow disease, Korea doesn’t want beef from cattle older than 30 months. Heifers are welcome. U.S. officials have said that exports of beef from cattle over 30 months old would amount to only about 5 percent of total beef exports. But they insisted on blowing it nonetheless.
The Chosun’s sage advice: Politicians “need to think long and hard whether the issue of beef from cattle 30 months or older is worth jettisoning the entire Korea-U.S. FTA for.”
So while Korea and the EU will trade unencumbered, the U.S. and Korea can’t agree on old cows.
What’s more, the tiff is barely a day old, and it’s already fed to the American public that the bad Koreans continue to keep good American cars out of their protected market. Mad cows? Never heard of them.
Cows or cars? Believe who you want.