Not sure if this link will work (it might be dynamic), but a quick search of news reports on Google News, such as this one, shows all kinds of optimism. According to this IHT report, during a news conference, the lead US negotiator, Assistant Trade Representative Wendy Cutler, noted that "significant headway" was made "across the board." She also said a pact was "within our grasp." Either she knows something I don't (OK, that's not an 'either'...she definitely knows many things I don't), or she's the most violent optimist I ever encountered. Of course, since her Korean counterpart was similarly optimistic, there might just be something here.
Talks are ongoing (this is the 8th round), but long-standing issues like agriculture, beef, rice, and automobiles remain. Nevertheless, I'm going to concede a ray of sunshine here...not because of some newfound hope, but because of the political imperatives that the article lists as potentially driving the completion of a deal.
- President Roh's desire to add to his legacy
- A chance for the US to balance the growing influence China wields
- An economic slowdown in South Korea and an attendant desire to increase access to the US markes
- A March expiration date on the US President's authority to ask the Congress to pass the deal in a simple up or down vote (without amendments)
So I guess I'm slightly less pessimistic (I won't use the 'O' word). Slightly. I'm also a supporter. I hear free trade is good and I think it could do nothing but help the bilateral relationship (in the long term).
But lost in the debate is the most important issue: will this impact the price of big, nasty flat screen TVs for Jap Chae?! If so, when I finish grad school (in a million years), I'm 'onna git me one. I guess I should change the title of this post....to "Go FTA!!"