Thu, November 19, 2009
World > Asia-Pacific > US president Obama's first Asia tour

Obama expresses hope to hasten S. Korea-U.S. FTA ratification: media

2009-11-19 03:01:26 GMT2009-11-19 11:01:26 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

SEOUL, Nov. 19 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama expressed hope to work out details on the pending free trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea, eyeing its ratification as early as next year, South Korean media reported Thursday, quoting the president's interview with a U.S. broadcaster.

"We are going to be discussing this with South Korea. I want to get the deal done," Obama was quoted as telling Fox News, when asked if he thinks the South Korea-U.S. FTA would be passed in Congress.

"The question is whether we can get it done in the beginning of2010, whether we can get it done at the end of 2010. There's still some details that need to be worked out," Obama said, adding that he thinks it is a potential good deal for U.S. exporters.

However, he also expressed concerns on the deal, saying "there's certain sectors of the economy that aren't dealt with as effectively and that's something that I'm going to be talking to President Lee (Myung-bak) about."

Although Obama did not elaborate, it seemed Obama referred to an imbalance in auto trade and restricted shipments of U.S. beef, South Korean news channel YTN said.

Obama's remarks came before he was set to meet with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak for a summit, where the two leaders are expected to have in-depth discussions on the matter.

According to local media, analysts in Washington interpreted the remarks as Obama making clear he sought a congressional approval on the deal.

The ratification process for South Korea-U.S. (KORUS) FTA, signed in 2007, has been stalled due to harsh backlash in both countries, with South Korean opposition groups demanding modification in terms related to beef industry and those in the U.S. enraged over auto industry-related clauses.

While South Korea has approached a final stage with the pact passed at the foreign affairs and trade committee of the National Assembly, the U.S. is still reluctant on the parliamentary passage of the FTA.

Democrats in U.S. Congress have claimed that side agreements to address the outstanding issues are needed, without revising the text of the deal, echoing the strong opposition from trade officials and unions concerned about possible job cuts amid the worst recession in decades.

Meanwhile, South Korean media are paying keen attention to the result of Thursday's South Korea-U.S. summit, for which many have forecasted the leaders will reaffirm their earlier stance on the issue, vowing to work together to "chart a way forward."

The FTA with South Korea is the largest trade deal for the U.S. since NAFTA, which was put into force in 1994, local media reported.

South Korea has settled free trade pacts with Singapore, the EFTA and the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and initialed a similar deal with the European Union.

SEOUL, Nov. 19 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Obama met with his South Korean counterpart Lee Myung-bak on Thursday to hold a summit on diverse regional and global issues, including the DPRK nuclear program and the pending bilateral free trade agreement.

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