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Published December 03, 2010, 02:27 PM

S. Korea, U.S. strike deal on trade pact: report

SEOUL — South Korea and the United States have reached a deal on a free trade pact pending for more than three years, Yonhap News Agency reported from Washington on Friday.

SEOUL — South Korea and the United States have reached a deal on a free trade pact pending for more than three years, Yonhap News Agency reported from Washington on Friday.

”We’ve produced a substantial outcome on the autos and other limited areas during the ongoing talks,” South Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong Hoon was quoted as saying.

Kim made the remarks after four days of intensive talks with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk at a hotel in Columbia, Maryland, the report said.

Kirk also said in a brief statement, ”We’ve made substantial progress in our discussions. It’s time now for the leaders to review this progress before we move forward.”

Citing Kim, the report said that a final announcement will be made after the delegations report outcomes to their respective governments for confirmation.

”I hope the legislatures of South Korea and the United States will be able to ratify the deal next year,” Kim was quoted as saying.

Autos and beef have been major points preventing the two countries from reaching a deal on the envisioned free trade agreement, signed in June 2007. While there were indications of movement on the auto issue, beef continued to pose a hurdle as South Korea is against allowing imports of U.S. beef that may be contaminated with BSE or its precursors.

But Kim said beef was not discussed and said, ”We’ve also produced a substantial outcome on our demands,” without elaborating, according to the report.

If the deal is finalized, the two countries are expected to speed up ratification at their legislatures to put the pact into force at an early date next year.

They unsuccessfully tried to resolve the outstanding issues by the time of the Nov. 11 U.S.-South Korea summit meeting. The latest round of talks, by Kim and Kirk, began at the end of November.

Earlier this month U.S. President Barack Obama expressed hope that a deal can be reached in ”weeks, not months” so he can present it to Congress early next year, Yonhap said. In June he showed enthusiasm toward the FTA as part of a plan to double U.S. exports.

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