Bush administration officials' love for the cliff-hangers of "24" extended into the free trade realm this weekend, as U.S. and South Korean officials wrapped up negotiations on a free trade agreement between the two nations mere minutes before the deadline by which a trade deal could be considered under existing Fast Track rules.
Details of the agreement are still coming in; however, according to The New York Times and Congress Daily (sorry, not linkable), it appears an agreement was made on the contentious issues of automobiles. Another of the main issues, Korean beef protections, was left somewhat unfinished with the U.S. threatening that the deal will not go through without Korea opening its markets to U.S. beef. The issue of rice imports into Korea remained so controversial that it was eventually tabled and will not be part of the agreement.
Over at Salon.com's globalization blog "How the World Works," Andrew Leonard reads through some of the Korean press to pick out a couple of nuggets missed by the U.S. media. While the chapter on intellectual property is not yet fully public, it appears that yet again Big Pharma has won its battle to keep drug costs high. In addition, it appears the agreement will force open Korea's media market (which currently has strong domestic content laws) to let more U.S. films and television programs into the market.
Stay tuned here, as we'll make more details known as they arise, especially regarding potentially controversial investment, services, security, and other below-the-radar provisions and issues in this new NAFTA expansion into East Asia.