EU, S. Korea Will Try Last Minute Negotiations

Monday, June 25, 2001
European Union (EU) and South Korean officials meet next week to try to settle a row over alleged subsidies to Korean shipyards and avert an EU threat to take the dispute to the World Trade Organization. Negotiators meet in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday. It could be the last chance for an amicable solution of the row over the EU's allegations that Seoul pays its shipbuilders illegal subsidies, subsidies which it says threaten the existence of European competitors. The EU's executive Commission said in May it would start a WTO dispute against South Korea -- the world's biggest shipbuilder -- over the issue unless a deal could be reached by June 30. The Commission has also proposed allowing temporary government aid for European shipyards hit by South Korean competition for as long as the WTO case lasts, although some EU member states oppose this idea. At a last round of talks in Seoul in May, EU trade officials called on South Korean shipyards to raise their ship prices by an average of 15 percent to relieve cost burdens on European yards, Seoul's Commerce Ministry said. An EU official confirmed the bloc was looking for a 15 percent rise in South Korean ship prices but said Seoul was only offering five percent. The EU also wants the rise applied to more types of ships than is being offered by South Korea, according to reports. The Commission said in May its own five-month probe of South Korean shipbuilding had established that substantial subsidies had been granted to South Korean shipyards which it alleged contravened the WTO's 1994 Subsidies Agreement. South Korean shipbuilders deny the EU charges. - (Reuters)

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