Overall, the discussions have moved forward, and we now have agreement on the general concepts of various provisions and are in a good position to start tightening key aspects of the text. This has been a big step forward from the previous round.
In particular, we welcomed the progress made on narrowing our differences in the area of:
o Remanufactured goods;
o Customs administration;
o Administration of agriculture TRQs; and
o Anti-corruption provisions.
In addition, we now have a common understanding on increasing opportunities for meaningful public participation in the development of government regulations.
We also agreed to establish a working group to consult and resolve automotive standards issues.
On industrial tariff offers, as I reported earlier this week, my team came to Jeju with an offer that included improvements on nearly a $1 billion in trade, largely comprised of auto parts.
On Tuesday, we further improved our offer by moving to immediate elimination of an additional 1,000 tariff lines, representing an additional $500 million in trade, covering a wide range of products.
We made these improvements earlier this week in an effort to provide momentum to the negotiations and in response to a Korean request to achieve more balance between our industrial tariff offers. And, we are already seeing signs that these improvements are spurring progress in the negotiations, and we are hopeful to see more improvements between rounds.
Korea tabled an improved agriculture offer. It does not meet our expectations. It only moves approximately 138 tariff lines, valued at $88 million in trade.
That said, it is a step in the right direction, albeit a small step.
We look forward to seeing further improvements by the Koreans in this area before the next round.
On textiles, at the beginning of this week, the U.S. put forward an enhanced tariff offer. The enhancements are valued at $1.35 billion in trade, representing half of our trade in this sector and covering over 500 tariff lines. The Korean negotiators chose to give our offer back to us. We were really surprised by this move.
As you can tell, there is no doubt we are in an intense phase of the negotiations and we still have work cut out for us.
Still, there was a lot of engagement between the two sides and we made some important progress.
In terms of our next steps, I expect frequent and focused engagement between our negotiators before the next round. Rules of origin and pharmaceuticals are likely to meet face-to-face. Additional groups have agreed to hold videoconferences, while others have committed to exchange new proposals and follow-up information.
And, of course, I will be in close contact with Ambassador Kim between now and the fifth round.
That round will be held in Big Sky, Montana during the week of December 4.
Senator Baucus invited Ambassador Schwab earlier this year to hold a round of U.S.-Korea talks in Montana, and we are very excited to be able to take him up on his offer.
Ambassador Kim and I have also agreed to schedule a 6th round, likely in mid-January.
Scheduling an additional round, does not indicate that these negotiations are faltering or by any means are in trouble.
In fact, we have made important progress in Jeju, and we are committed to building on this progress in the days and weeks ahead.
Let’s all keep in mind that these are complex negotiations between two large and advanced economies. We want to get it right. If that takes a little more time, it is time well spent.