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Published: Friday, 11/19/2010

Kaptur presses Obama on Korea pact

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur and eight other Democratic House members expressed their concerns about the proposed Korea Free Trade Agreement in an hour-long meeting at the White House with President Obama Thursday.

Miss Kaptur (D., Toledo) said the group of lawmakers urged the President to insist on more even trade conditions between the United States and Asian countries to protect American manufacturing and jobs.

"The President was fully engaged and receptive to our comments. He invited suggestions about the proposed trade agreement with South Korea as well as the future of manufacturing," Miss Kaptur said.

She's a member of a group of Democratic House members called the Jobs and Trade Caucus. Joining the group was U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton (D., Barberton) whose district includes part of Lorain County.

Miss Kaptur said the U.S. trade deficit is unsustainable and is a drag on the U.S. gross domestic product. She said U.S. negotiators should be more vigilant in attacking nontariff trade barriers, such as the regulatory regimes in South Korea that effectively bar imports of motor vehicles and parts from the United States.

Miss Kaptur said South Korea shipped 476,000 vehicles into the United States in 2009, while only 7,800 American-made vehicles were sold in South Korea. South Korea's population is about 48 million, compared to a U.S. population of 307 million.

She said Mr. Obama talked about how Germany has modernized its industry and balanced its international trade.

"So he's thinking hard about how to balance the trade deficit and what we can do to make more goods in America and spur job creation here," she said.

According to the Reuters wire service, the outlook is good for concluding trade talks between the United States and South Korea by the end of the year, despite a major setback this month, a U.S. business official said Thursday.

Tami Overby, president of the U.S.-Korea Business Council, said her group met Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis on Wednesday "and he continues to say a matter of days and weeks" before the deal is sealed.

The two countries plan to resume talks on the trade deal in Washington, after they failed to resolve remaining beef and auto trade issues during President Obama's recent trip to Seoul for the Group of 20 summit.

The sticking points mainly involve U.S. auto industry concerns that the pact does not do enough to tear down South Korean regulatory barriers, which are blamed for low U.S. car sales, while phasing out remaining U.S. tariffs on South Korean vehicles.

The United States also is looking for assurances outside the pact that South Korea's market will remain open to U.S. beef and continue to grow, after a number of trade disruptions in the past decade.

Information from Reuters was used in this report.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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