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Lee optimistic SKorea, US can finalize trade deal

 South Korean President Lee Myung-bak arrives for his speech to the nation during a news conference regarding the upcoming G20 Summit at the president...
 South Korean President Lee Myung-bak answers a reporter's question during a news conference regarding the upcoming G20 Summit at the presidential Blu...
 South Korean President Lee Myung-bak delivers a speech to the nation during a news conference regarding the upcoming G20 Summit at the presidential B...
 South Korean President Lee Myung-bak answers a reporter's question during a news conference regarding the upcoming G20 Summit at the presidential Blu...
 South Korean President Lee Myung-bak answers a reporter's question during a news conference regarding the upcoming G20 Summit at the presidential Blu...
 South Korean President Lee Myung-bak leaves after speaking at a news conference regarding the upcoming G20 Summit at the presidential Blue House in S...
 South Korean President Lee Myung-bak answers a reporter's question during a news conference regarding the upcoming G20 Summit at the presidential Blu...
 South Korean President Lee Myung-bak answers a reporter's question during a news conference regarding the upcoming G20 Summit at the presidential Blu...

South Korea G20

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak arrives for his speech to the nation during a news conference regarding the upcoming G20 Summit at the president...

South Korea G20

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak answers a reporter's question during a news conference regarding the upcoming G20 Summit at the presidential Blu...

South Korea G20

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak delivers a speech to the nation during a news conference regarding the upcoming G20 Summit at the presidential B...

South Korea G20

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak answers a reporter's question during a news conference regarding the upcoming G20 Summit at the presidential Blu...

South Korea G20

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak answers a reporter's question during a news conference regarding the upcoming G20 Summit at the presidential Blu...

South Korea G20

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak leaves after speaking at a news conference regarding the upcoming G20 Summit at the presidential Blue House in S...

South Korea G20

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak answers a reporter's question during a news conference regarding the upcoming G20 Summit at the presidential Blu...

South Korea G20

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak answers a reporter's question during a news conference regarding the upcoming G20 Summit at the presidential Blu...

President Lee Myung-bak expressed confidence Wednesday that South Korea and the United States can finalize a long-stalled free trade deal though offered no clues about narrowing key differences on beef and autos ahead of a meeting with President Barack Obama.
The two countries, key security allies for decades, concluded 10 months of negotiations in April 2007 for a landmark deal to slash tariffs and other barriers to commerce and signed it three months later.
The pact has been in limbo since then with progress slowed by changes of government in both countries, the global economic slump and Washington's demands that Seoul make concessions on trade in autos and beef. The agreement cannot take effect until it is ratified by legislatures in both countries.
"I am quite positive that we'll reach an agreement that will be acceptable to both" countries, Lee told reporters ahead of a planned meeting with Obama on Nov. 11. Lee also said he and Obama are committed to getting the deal completed and that their respective trade ministers are trying to work out a compromise.
Obama and Lee vowed in June to try and resolve differences by the time they meet at the Group of 20 summit of leading rich and emerging countries in Seoul, which takes place Nov. 11-12.
South Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon and U.S Trade Representative Ron Kirk met last week in the U.S. in a bid to make progress.
In a telephone conversation Tuesday morning, Lee and Obama agreed to make efforts to finalize the deal before the G-20 summit to promote free trade internationally and upgrade the South Korea-U.S. alliance, Lee's office said in a brief statement.
In Washington, the White House said that Obama told Lee that he wants to "use the next week to make progress toward an agreement." The White House also said that if Seoul and Washington "can reach a satisfactory agreement on the key issues for American workers, we will have a deal."
The U.S. has said that the deal cannot go forward without addressing South Korea's overwhelming surplus in auto trade and a further loosening of restrictions on imports of American beef. Seoul has resisted any formal renegotiation of the deal, but has said it is willing to discuss U.S. concerns.
Lee offered no details regarding what a final compromise might look like, but said that the deal will be good for both countries "by creating good quality jobs" and will also benefit companies and consumers.
The agreement "will not, I repeat will not, reduce jobs either in Korea or in the United States," he said, adding that he believes in the "strategic importance" of the deal "both economically and politically."
South Korea and the U.S. have been close security allies since the end of World War II and fought together against North Korea and China in the 1950-53 Korean War.
Obama said in June that he wanted the deal with Seoul wrapped up so he can submit it to Congress for approval within a "few months" after his visit to Seoul for the G-20 summit. South Korea's National Assembly must also ratify the agreement for it to take effect.
Bilateral trade between South Korea and the U.S. totaled $66.7 billion in 2009, down sharply from $84.7 billion in 2008 as global commerce suffered during the economic downturn.
Efforts to achieve a breakthrough on the South Korea-U.S. deal come as Seoul and the European Union signed a free trade agreement last month in Brussels and are aiming to see it take effect in July next year.
The 27-member European Union is South Korea's second-largest trading partner after China. The EU is the largest foreign investor in the Northeast Asian country.


Updated : 2021-08-04 16:44 GMT+08:00