Update #4 - Fourth Negotiating Round - 31 March 2010
The fourth round of FTA negotiations between Australia and Korea was held in Seoul from 15 to 19 March 2010.
The Korean delegation, of 65 officials in total, was led by Chief FTA negotiator, Director General Lee Tae-ho, from the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT). I led an Australian delegation of about 40 officials from a broad range of Australian Government agencies. Overall, discussions continued in the positive vein set at the first three rounds last year. Progress on text negotiations at the round generally was quite rapid, but there are still a variety of key issues to resolve in the market access discussions.
In the lead-up to the fourth round, the two sides exchanged further revisions to our respective goods market access offers (i.e. lists of possible tariff concessions). At the round, Australia continued to highlight the improvements we seek in Korea's goods offer, particularly for certain priority agricultural products. Korea similarly highlighted its interest in the elimination of Australia's tariffs on certain industrial products.
The two sides continued with constructive exchanges on goods-related chapters. These include chapters on Trade in Goods, Technical Barriers to Trade, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, Trade Remedies, Rules of Origin and Customs Procedures. A number of these chapters are now moving quite close to conclusion, although further discussion will be required in certain areas. The two sides also continued to discuss each side’s proposals for enhanced cooperation in the agricultural, energy and mineral resources sectors.
Negotiations were also productive on various services and investment topics. Text negotiations in the five relevant chapters (Cross-Border Trade in Services, Investment, Financial Services, Telecommunications and Movement of Natural Persons) now have only quite a small number of issues outstanding overall, but the remaining ones will require further intensive work. Before the round, the two sides exchanged initial services and investment market access requests, and discussed these requests and clarified further aspects of each side’s offers at the round. The two sides have undertaken to further revise their respective services and investment requests before the fifth round.
Elsewhere, the two sides also made excellent progress on topics including intellectual property rights, government procurement, legal and institutional issues, competition policy, labour, environment and e-commerce.
Looking ahead, the fifth round of negotiations will be held in Canberra in late May 2010.