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U.S. open to talks over ISD settlement: official

WASHINGTON (Yonhap News) ― The United States is willing to discuss the controversial issue of investor-state dispute settlement with South Korea once their free trade agreement takes effect, a U.S. trade official said Tuesday.

“We are prepared to consult with Korea on any issue they may raise pertaining to KORUS after entry into force of the agreement,” the official told Yonhap News Agency on the condition of anonymity.

The official said South Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon and his American counterpart, Ron Kirk, recently exchanged letters to establish a “new KORUS Committee on Services and Investment where any specific issue in those areas can be discussed, including investor-state dispute settlement.”

The ISD settlement provisions in the FTA allow U.S. investors to settle disputes with the South Korean government at international courts.

The U.S. stance is apparently aimed at helping the Lee Myung-bak administration win ratification of the FTA. The U.S. Congress approved it in October.

But South Korea’s National Assembly remains locked in partisan strife over the FTA, with the main opposition Democratic Party claiming that the clause on the ISD settlement in the deal unfairly favors the U.S. side.

In an effort to break the stalemate, the South Korean president visited the National Assembly on Tuesday and promised that his government will ask for a renegotiation on the ISD with the U.S. within three months after the FTA goes into effect.