SEOUL, Nov. 10 (Korea Bizwire) – The South Korean government will have another issue to discuss in the next round of FTA negotiations with the United States after a recall of imported Chevrolet Impalas has been delayed in adherence to a clause in the trade pact.
The clause in question stipulates that a business can import up to 25,000 U.S. vehicles that do not satisfy South Korean safety requirements, but have passed safety inspections stateside.
The existence of the condition and questioning attitudes towards it became publicized after the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport revealed on November 9 that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had been contacted for confirmation on whether the aforementioned Impalas, imported by GM Korea, were in line with the agency’s safety requirements.
The South Korean ministry had discovered a widening gap on the side of a tire and informed GM Korea of the problem, only to be met by the explanation “the problem only occurs in sample tires” and a refusal to take the matter into consideration.
Under most circumstances, the Ministry would take measures, among them a recall of the vehicles, but the KORUS FTA has hamstrung any action it might take. A spokesperson for the government has stated that it has not yet received any communication from its U.S. counterpart.
The uncomfortable situation has fomented criticism from auto experts, who point out that a car’s safety requirements are tailored to meet local challenges, which makes the provision in the FTA in opposition to the core purpose of a safety inspection. Multiple variables, from the quality of the roads and general traffic congestion to naturally occurring phenomena like outdoors temperatures and humidity levels must be taken into account when inspecting a vehicle’s safety levels.
Subsequently, many are saying that safety in regards to the auto industry is something that cannot be compromised.
On the other side of the aisle, the Secretary of Commerce for South Korea’s second largest trade partner had previously said, “Because the number of vehicles meeting U.S. safety standards that can be exported to South Korea is capped at 25,000, American auto companies are encountering difficulties in entering the South Korean market.”
Said in July prior to the current Chevrolet Impala issue, his statements at the time were seen as setting the stage for what would be a tough round of talks between the two countries.
Negotiations over steel, agriculture and various other industries are already on the agenda for the next FTA summit. As both sides are expected to have plenty to demand from the other, analysts have recommended that South Korea bring a highly analytical, data-specific approach to the table.