Analysis; US-Korea Free Trade Talks

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Byline: KELLY OLSEN AP Business Writer

SEOUL, South Korea - South Korean negotiators faced an awkward situation Thursday after a leaked government report suggested they had given up on achieving a key demand in tough free trade talks with the United States.

The confidential document, as published in the Hankyoreh newspaper, suggested that South Korea understands it will be unable to get the United States to soften its anti-dumping laws, but will keep pressing the issue as a bargaining chip.

"Even when it seems difficult that our interests will be reflected in the trade remedy sector, we need to keep putting pressure on the US side for negotiations in other sectors," the report said.

South Korea has taken strong exception to so-called trade remedies, in particular rules governing the imposition of penalty tariffs on foreign products sold at unfairly low prices - a practice known as dumping.

Seoul has been pushing for procedural changes to American laws to minimize the chances of anti-dumping tariffs being levied against its products. The US side has rebuffed the demands.

"I will keep pushing on the trade remedy," Ambassador Kim Jong-hoon, South Korea's chief negotiator, told reporters, calling the leak "regrettable."

The flap came as negotiators have reported guarded progress this week, their sixth round of talks since June. But breakthroughs have been few and frustrations appear strong in other areas, such as agriculture.

Both sides have vowed a major push this week, though acknowledge a seventh session will probably be necessary next month in the United States. …