Chile Irked over ROK's Failure to Submit Tariff Plan

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Chilean Vice Foreign Minister Alejandro Jara has emerged disappointed from four-day negotiations aimed at setting up a free trade agreement because of Korea's failure to put forward its plans for tariff elimination on sensitive sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and forestry.

``We started market access negotiations this week. We have indicated how we would like to see tariffs phased out. Korea has done the same in most sectors, but not on agriculture, not on fisheries and not on forestry,'' he said during an interview with The Korea Times yesterday. ``We are disappointed that we don't have a tariff offer from Korea on these three sectors,'' he added.

Jara was in Seoul leading a 20-member Chilean delegation. After reaching an agreement in principle to launch negotiations on a free trade agreement in November 1998, the two countries held second round talks in Seoul this week.

At present, the Korean government doesn't appear to be fully prepared for its strategies on market access. Already, it faces strong pressure from the agricultural sector, especially from grape farmers who hate the tariff-free imports of Chilean grapes.

``We produce grapes off-season. We promote the consumption of grapes in Korea, which is also beneficial to Korean farmers. I think the grapes they produce are very different from what we produce. This is a different market,'' he stressed.

The official noted that a free trade agreement doesn't mean an immediate opening of all sectors and a curb to the process in the event of emergencies.

``All trade agreements will have safeguards. If your industry is subject to a critical situation, you have the right to increase the tariff. It is like a pressure cooker which has a safety valve. Otherwise it may explode,'' he said.

The safeguards will give the time these weak industries need to adjust themselves to a new business environment, he said.

``We want most products to be liberalized over five years. Some items will be liberalized immediately and some sensitive items over 10 years,'' he said. …