Canada, South Korea very close to free trade deal: sources

Thu Mar 6, 2014 1:54pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada and South Korea are very close to signing a long-delayed free trade deal after years of talks, sources familiar with the negotiations said on Thursday.

"It's imminent," said one business source, who asked for anonymity because a formal announcement had not been made yet.

"They are really, really close," said another person with knowledge of the protracted negotiations.

Another industry source said Canadian government officials were now seeking reaction from stakeholders to a South Korean deal, a step they also took just before Canada announced it had agreed a free trade pact with the European Union last year.

Canada, seeking to diversify its exports away from the United States, has long targeted the rapidly expanding economies of Asia.

Canada's Trade Ministry says exports to South Korea in 2012 were worth C$3.7 billion ($3.4 billion) while imports from South Korea hit C$6.4 billion.

"We have no deal at this point. Negotiations are ongoing," said Rudy Husny, a spokesman for International Trade Minister Ed Fast.

Talks with South Korea began in 2005, but later stalled over disputes about auto exports and a delay by Seoul in scrapping its ban on Canadian beef. South Korea lifted its nine-year-old ban in 2012.   Continued...

Trucks used to transport containers are seen at the Hanjin Shipping container terminal at the Busan New Port in Busan, about 420 km (261 miles) southeast of Seoul, August 8, 2013. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won