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U.S., South Korea set to elevate auto trade talks

by Andrew Ganz

U.S. and South Korean trade chiefs will meet in suburban Washington to discuss opening up trade restrictions imposed on the auto industry.

After talks aimed at creating a free trade agreement between the United States and South Korea ended prior to October's G20 summit, the two countries have agreed to meet again.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk is tasked with trying to persuade South Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon to reduce or eliminate importation taxes and regulatory hurdles in order to allow the U.S. auto and beef industries access to the Asian nation.

The two sides are set to meet today and tomorrow in suburban Columbia, Maryland, about half way between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

Both sides have long said that they want to resolve the issues, but an agreement has never been worked out. South Korea says it wants concessions from the U.S. if it is to make any changes to its importation laws, which are among the strictest in the world. Detroit automakers have put pressure on the U.S. government to convince the Koreans to drop the tariffs, which effectively restrict them from selling anything but nominal quantities of new cars in the Asian country. Only General Motors, which operates a Korean subsidiary, Daewoo (pictured), has been able to penetrate the Korean market.

The country also has kept especially firm beef importation laws since the 2003 mad cow disease breakout.

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