South Korea, U.S. agree to extend talks
SEOUL, South Korea – The United States and South Korea need more time to negotiate a free trade deal, and have extended the talks to Sunday, the two governments said.”Negotiations continue between the U.S. and the Republic of Korea on a number of outstanding issues,” said Sean M. Spicer, U.S. trade representative for public affairs, in a statement Saturday.Negotiators for the two sides missed an original U.S.-imposed deadline of midnight Friday in South Korea, but kept talking past sunrise Saturday before making the announcement of the extension.The two sides, which began negotiating the deal almost 10 months ago, have been meeting since Monday in Seoul, but have apparently failed to bridge gaps on contentious issues such as trade in autos and agriculture.The extension is needed “so that the Administration can decide whether to notify Congress of its intent to sign by Sunday, April 1, the deadline for Congressional notification under Trade Promotion Authority,” Spicer said.The White House wants to finalize a deal by that date so it can still be submitted to Congress for a straight yes-or-no vote without amendments. This “fast track” power granted to President Bush by Congress expires on July 1, but requires a 90-day window for Congressional review.South Korea’s chief negotiator in the talks, Ambassador Kim Jong-hoon, also announced the extension to reporters.
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