Canada, South Korea conclude long-delayed free trade deal

Tue Mar 11, 2014 6:51am EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada and South Korea announced on Tuesday they had wrapped up talks on a long-delayed free trade deal which had stalled for years amid squabbles over exports of autos and beef.

The deal - outlined in a statement by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper - is particularly important for Canada, which is trying to cut its reliance on the U.S. market.

The agreement is the first Canada has concluded with a nation from Asia, a fast-growing part of the world that Ottawa is deliberately targeting.

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.

Canadian exports though have steadily dropped since a free trade deal between the United States and South Korea came into effect in March 2012.

The 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.

Canada says the deal will boost exports by 32 percent, equivalent to C$1.7 billion a year. South Korean exports should grow by 20 percent a year, or around C$1.3 billion.

South Korea will remove duties on 98.2 percent of its tariff lines, covering virtually all Canadian exports.   Continued...

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (L) shakes hands with South Korean President Park Geun-hye during joint news conference after their meeting at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, March 11, 2014. REUTERS/Lee Jin-man/Pool