South Korean Leaders Hail US Approval of FTA

Posted October 13th, 2011 at 2:45 am (UTC-5)
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South Korean leaders are hailing the U.S. Congress' approval of a bilateral free-trade pact and calling for their own legislature to quickly ratify the deal as well.

Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon was quoted Thursday saying he believes the National Assembly will sign off on the pact by the end of this month. South Korea's Yonhap news agency that would make it possible for the agreement to go into effect in January.

President Lee Myung-bak was dining with President Barack Obama at a Korean barbecue restaurant outside Washington when they received word late Wednesday that the U.S. House of Representatives had approved the deal. That was the final step needed before Mr. Obama can sign it into law.

Mr. Lee is in Washington on a high-profile visit that will include formal meetings and a state dinner Thursday. Mr. Lee also will address a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress.

U.S. officials have described the visit as very important and significant. White House spokesman Jay Carney says U.S.-South Korean relations are at their high point, helping to build global peace and prosperity.

Mr. Lee told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Wednesday that the trade deal will create good jobs in both countries. He said those who argue the deal will cost jobs will be proven wrong.

Presidents Lee and Obama plan to visit a General Motors car plant Friday in Detroit. Mr. Obama has said he would like to see Koreans driving U.S.-built cars the way many Americans drive Korean cars.

Wednesday, Mr. Lee visited the Pentagon for talks with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. U.S. officials have not given any details of their talks. South Korea's Yonhap news agency says North Korea and other security issues dominated their discussions.