South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper hailed the just-concluded free trade deal between the two countries as a “landmark achievement” Tuesday, saying it will bring about significant benefits for both economies.
The two leaders’ remarks came as the countries’ trade ministers announced they had worked out a deal after nearly nine years of free trade negotiations. The deal centers on Canada phasing out tariffs on Korean auto imports in two years and South Korea lifting tariffs on Canadian beef imports in 15 years.
S.Korea and Canada concluded earlier today their negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) that, once implemented, is expected to help significantly boost their bilateral trade. The conclusion of negotiations came at the two nations’ trade ministers’ talks held in Seoul earlier in the day, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy here.
Tuesday’s summit is the second between Park and Harper. They first met one-on-one on the sidelines of a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum last year.
The Canadian leader has reportedly said that the envisioned trade pact could serve as a gateway for deals with other Asian countries.
The two countries launched free trade talks in 2005, but made slow progress due mainly to differences in the auto and agriculture sectors, with South Korea seeking to remove Canada’s tariffs on car imports and Canada seeking to eliminate South Korea’s tariffs on beef imports. The deal will mark Canada’s first free trade pact with an Asian nation.
Canada is the world’s 11th-largest economy and one of the Group of Eight nations. But trade volume between the two countries has been relatively small, with Canada being only the 25th-largest trade partner for South Korea. Two-way trade amounted to US$10 billion in 2012.
The envisioned deal with Canada will be South Korea’s 12th free trade pact. The other deals include those with the United States, the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The country has also been in negotiations on seven deals, including the one with Canada.
Park has vowed to aggressively pursue free trade deals with other nations.
Other topics for Tuesday’s summit include ways to increase cooperation in energy and resources, science and technology, forest and other areas. The two leaders also plan to discuss the security situation on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, officials said.