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Ratification of S. Korea-US free trade deal unlikely before November: minister

All Headlines 11:18 March 12, 2010

SEOUL, March 12 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Congress is not likely to move toward ratification of a pending free trade accord with South Korea before the politically sensitive mid-term elections in November, Seoul's trade minister said Friday.

The free trade pact between Korea and the United States was signed in 2007 but still awaits ratification in the legislatures of both countries.

"I think ratification of the free trade deal by U.S. Congress may be difficult before the mid-term elections in November (in the U.S.)," South Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon said in a meeting with businessmen.

"But the U.S. government is also hoping for early ratification of the trade deal... I cautiously expect the U.S. side to work on measures for the ratification," he said.

The imbalance in auto trade and restricted shipments of U.S. beef are key hurdles to the early ratification of the free trade accord, signed in 2007.

South Korean officials have said that the U.S. has not yet raised those issues, although some U.S. officials have said in public they want to address those issues in side agreements to avoid a complicated revision of the text of the deal.

Also, the U.S. administration has been focused on health care, financial reform and other more pressing issues amid protectionist sentiment in Congress in the worst economic downturn since the 1930s.

Currently, South Korea has free trade agreements with India, Chile, Singapore and the European Free Trade Association, as well as a pact with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and India.

In November, South Korea initialed a similar trade pact with the European Union, and is set to officially sign the pact in April.

sam@yna.co.kr
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