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Biden says U.S. determined to move ahead on FTA with South Korea

All Headlines 09:43 April 13, 2010

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, April 12 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden affirmed Monday that his administration is determined to get a free trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea ratified by Congress at an early date, South Korean officials said after his meeting with President Lee Myung-bak here.

In talks with Biden at the White House, Lee asked for the "leadership by President Barack Obama and the vice president to get the FTA passed by Congress," as the U.S. administration has removed a major domestic obstacle by concluding the health care reform bill, one of Lee's aides told reporters on customary condition of anonymity.

Biden reiterated the U.S. has a "strong will to make progress on the FTA with South Korea," the aide said, but without mentioning specific target dates.

The vice president explained Washington's position on the FTA issue in a "candid manner" and elaborated on the internal politics involved, according to the aide.

The Korea-U.S. FTA, referred to as the KORUS FTA, was signed in 2007. The legislative process had virtually stopped, however, as the Obama administration prioritized the health care bill which passed Congress just last month.

Washington also wants to work in clauses to ease an auto trade imbalance, heavily in South Korea's favor.

In an interview with the Washington Post, the South Korean president pressed the U.S. to double its efforts to pass the FTA.

"I consider the KORUS-FTA as when it's going to get passed, not whether it's going to get passed. I believe it's just a matter of time before we see the U.S. Congress ratify the FTA," he said in the interview published on Monday.

There could be opposition to the deal, he said, "But you really have to look at the whole, entire FTA and if it comes out as a plus, then it's the responsibility."

"My administration is fully determined to overcome such difficulties and challenges, because we consider the KORUS-FTA as a whole to be beneficial for the entire country."

lcd@yna.co.kr
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