KAI RYSSDAL: Negotiators are scrambling to meet an end-of-the-week deadline to hammer out a huge free trade deal with South Korea. The two countries already trade $75 billion worth of goods a year — think Samsung and Hyundais being sold on this end. If an agreement can be reached, it would be the biggest trade deal for the U.S. since NAFTA back in 1993. But Marketplace’s John Dimsdale reports there are plenty of critics on both sides of the Pacific.
JOHN DIMSDALE: In South Korea, free trade opponents have held street protests and hunger strikes. The agriculture industry there fears a flood of cheap American farm products.
At the same time, South Koreans are eager to keep the U.S. as the biggest customer of their cars and electronic goods.
Meanwhile, American businesses see Korea as a huge potential market. Troy Stangarone at the Korea Economic Institute says U.S. carmakers are savoring the prospect of more balanced trade between the two countries.
TROY STANGARONE: The U.S. has had a long history of difficulties in the Korean market. Right now, Korea sells about 700,000 cars in the U.S. The U.S. sells about 4,000 in Korea.
The American beef industry is following the South Korean trade negotiations closely. South Korea had been the industry’s third-largest export market before mad cow disease hit here in 2003.
The chief economist for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Gregg Doud, says four years later, just about every other country has resumed importing U.S. beef.
GREGG DOUD: Korea is one of the final holdouts in the entire world on our beef and they are an enormous market for us. And yeah, we’re putting some pressure on right now to say that it’s high time to deliver on this.
Trade negotiators in Seoul are working to meet an end-of-the-week deadline imposed by the looming expiration of President Bush’s fast-track trade negotiating authority. Congressional Democrats have proposed extending fast track, if the White House agrees to labor and environmental standards for future trade deals.
In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.
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