Korean FTAs: Going nowhere fast?

Korea’s chances of negotiating its FTAs with China and Japan were probably hurt by this comment:

The U.S. is a much better free-trade partner for Korea than China or Japan, where issues of race and historical animosities would make an agreement difficult, Korea’s chief negotiator in free-trade talks with the U.S. said Thursday. Kim Jong-hoon invoked “many sensitive issues such as racism, history distortions and territorial disputes” with China or Japan in response to the suggestion that the country should seek a free trade agreement with one of them first since their economies are smaller than the U.S.’ He was speaking at a forum hosted by the Korea Employers Federation.

But don’t look for the US negotiations to go much better:

Lee Myung-soo, vice minister at the agriculture ministry… “We will stick to our principle of not giving up the rice market in the free trade talks with the U.S.”

Half of the potential gains from a Korea-US FTA are in agriculture! The ASEAN-Korea deal is also held up by the rice barrier.

Don’t look for much progress on these Korean FTAs. But I’ve been skeptical from the start.