Obama recommits to finishing trade pact with South Korea
US President Barack Obama committed to thrashing out a long-stalled free-trade agreement with South Korea during a meeting Saturday with President Lee Myung-Bak, dpa reported.
Meeting on the sidelines of a Group of 20 (G20) summit in Toronto, the two leaders directed trade negotiators to iron out their differences by the time Obama visits South Korea in November.
"It is the right thing to do for our country. It is the right thing to do for Korea," Obama said, pledging to push the trade deal through a skeptical Congress following the November agreement.
Obama, while he has voiced support for the deal, did little to push it forward in the last year amid disagreements over access to the South Korean car market and a dispute over beef products. Obama's left-leaning Democratic Party has been reluctant to back the deal.
South Korea has been pushing for the deal ever since it was signed by then-president George W Bush in 2007. Lee welcomed Obama's initiative and said the two sides would "work closely together so that we can talk about the specific ways to move this forward" in the coming months.
US businesses, which have criticized the administration for wasting an opportunity to expand into Asian markets, welcomed the announcement.
"This pact has the potential to be a model for other agreements across the Asia-Pacific region," said Tami Overby of the US Chamber of Commerce. "This is a region that now accounts for half of the global economy. We're talking about the future here."
US officials said the promise was part of Obama's pledge to double US exports in five years to help strengthen the sluggish US economy.