The Briefing Room
1:10 P.M. EDT
MS. WEISS: Good afternoon. Today, we have Richard Fisher, who is the Deputy U.S. Trade Representative for the United States. He led the negotiations to conclude the U.S.-Korea auto agreement. The negotiations lasted eight days, and the last four days they went around the clock. They concluded last night around 6:00 p.m. And Mr. Fisher is here today to talk about the agreement, and after that you'll have Joe Lockhart.
AMBASSADOR FISHER: Mr. Fisher is here, barely awake, today to describe the agreement. Yesterday, we successfully resolved the Super 301 action which we had taken one year ago to secure a meaningful opening of the Korean market and, particularly, meaningful access to U.S. manufacturers of motor vehicles.
The results of our negotiations with the government of Korea are the following. First, they will broaden the scope of coverage in our understanding with them under current actions and previous actions, to include minivans and also sports utility vehicles, as well as the kind of cars -- large engine displacement cars -- that the U.S. has a particular comparative advantage in.
Secondly, they will address burdensome standards and certification procedures which have heretofore acted as non-tariff barriers to the entry of our U.S.-made automobiles into the Canadian market and, in particular, will allow a self-certification methodology which is only done heretofore in the United States and in Canada, so that Korea becomes the third nation to undertake this self-certification procedure.
Third, they will reduce the tax burden on U.S. manufactured cars, both at the point of purchase and also over the life of ownership of the car. Fourth, they have bound their tariffs at 8 percent; the old bound rate was 80 percent. And at this juncture, now having bound their tariffs at 8 percent, Korea's tariff rate is lower than that of the European Union and also lower of that than Canada.
Fifth, they will put in a place a system for financing the purchase of automobiles in Korea. This is a unique system that they did not have up to this point. It allows for the possession of cars, in the case of default and, of course, affects all automobile sales in Korea. Again, this wasn't in place before.
They will undertake, sixthly, actions to improve the perception of U.S. automobiles and foreign-made cars in the Korean marketplace. This has been a substantial non-tariff barrier that's existed. It was almost considered unpatriotic to buy a non-Korean-made car. And Korean government will undertake actions which will improve the perception and the acceptability of foreign-made cars in the Korean market.
And then, lastly, in a side letter that my counter-negotiator provided to us in the form of a letter to Ambassador Barshefsky -- forbids the government of Korea to direct any financial institutions to lend money to the auto sector -- what is so-called directed lending -- and to refrain from market-distorting subsidies on behalf of, say, for example, Hyundai and their acquisition and conduct of business of Kia.
That, in summary, is the results of our negotiation. Let me just say that this comes at an interesting time in terms of Korean economic activity. As you know, per capita GDP in Korea last year and -- this year, rather, 1998 -- is down some 27 percent. Korea is in very difficult straits. Their auto market has imploded in terms of sales. And we applaud the government of Korea for u ...
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