US plans FTAs with Asia

Washington, November 15:

Fresh from a rebuff from South American neighbours and amid fears global free-trade talks may stumble, US president George W Bush will step up efforts to forge bilateral tariff-busting plans with Asian states this week. While Bush would give a push to stalled global free-trade negotiations at the APEC summit in the South Korean city of Busan, he would at the same time press the need for two-way free-trade pacts with several Asian economies of the 21-member APEC forum, officials and experts said. Among them are South Korea and several Southeast Asian nations.

After his trade officials set December as a possible target date for launching full-scale free-trade negotiations with South Korea, Bush said last week “it’s certainly going to be an item” in talks with president Roh Moo-Hyun. To pave the way for the Bush-Roh meeting, US trade representative Rob Portman would hold talks earlier with his South Korean counterpart . But the US will have to first convince South Korea, Asia’s third-biggest economy and the seventh-largest US trade partner, to lift a ban on US beef imports imposed in 2003 and allow more American films into its market — seemingly stumbling blocs to launching the free-trade talks.

Analysts said that a breakthrough in negotiati-ons with South Korea wou-ld open up another front in the US free-trade thrust in the Asia-Pacific region.