South Korea warns U. S. president on trade deal

South Korea has urged the new U. S. president not to renegotiate a free trade deal signed last year, saying the winner of the vote will find the pact beneficial to both sides.

Democrat Barack Obama has said he opposes the free trade deal with South Korea unless it is renegotiated to grant greater access to the Asian market for U. S. automakers.

Obama won the presidency in Tuesday’s U. S. election.

“To try to renegotiate the text when it’s been signed and awaiting ratification by the two sides’ assemblies … you would damage the balance that was achieved when the deal was reached,” chief free trade negotiator Lee Hye-min told a news briefing.

“So renegotiation is difficult. It’s our government’s basic position that renegotiation is difficult,” he said. “It not only goes against international custom but it’s inappropriate.”

South Korea has submitted the free trade deal, which some studies said could boost the two countries’ $78 billion annual trade by a quarter, to parliament for approval. The rul ing conservat ive Grand National Party has pledged to pass it soon.

Obama is fundamentally pro-free trade but views the deal with South Korea as flawed, U. S. congressional aide Frank Jannuzi said at a recent debate on behalf of the Illinois senator.

The pact “will be ratified in an Obama administration but ratified with the proper safeguards,” Jannuzi said.

Lee said Obama’s objections to the free trade deal is limited to automobiles and noted no party to a bilateral trade deal would ever find all parts of the pact satisfactory.

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