Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lee, Obama to discuss trade, N. Korea in summit talks

by Lee Chi-dong
via Yonhap NA, Seoul, South Korea
11 November 2010
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama will hold bilateral summit talks Thursday expected to focus on trade and regional security issues, just ahead of the opening of the G-20 Seoul Summit, officials said.

Air Force One arrives in Korea.
(Credit: Yonhap)
The Lee-Obama meeting will be the first since Obama's Democratic Party suffered heavy defeat in mid-term elections last week.
It is uncertain whether Obama will present or signal a shift in Washington's approach toward North Korea to end their protracted stand-off and resume the six-party talks over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.
The leaders plan to "reaffirm unswerving commitment" to the Seoul-Washington alliance and discuss ways to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, a South Korean presidential official said on the customary condition of anonymity.

Keen attention is also being paid to whether Lee and Obama will be able to announce the conclusion of a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), signed in 2007 but yet to be ratified by respective legislatures.
The official said it is hard to predict whether the two countries would be able to reach an accord on the matter.
Trade officials from the two sides have been in intensive consultations over Washington's demand that Seoul lower the trade barrier for U.S. autos and widen its market to American beef.
South Korea has hinted at the possibility of some concessions on the auto trade but ruled out any discussion over beef. The Lee Myung-bak administration was hit hard in its early months in office by weeks of fierce street protests and candlelight vigils against its decision to resume American beef imports despite fear of mad cow disease. It has since banned the imports of U.S. beef from cattle older than 30 months.
The South Korean president will also hold one-on-one talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Brazilian President Luiz Lula da Silva on the sidelines of the two-day G-20 session.
He is due to meet bilaterally with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tyyip Erdogan on Saturday.