S Korea, Canada signs comprehensive FTA

Updated: 2014-03-11 16:52


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S Korea, Canada signs comprehensive FTA

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (3rd L) and South Korean President Park Geun-hye (3rd R) shake hands before starting their meeting at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, March 11, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]

SEOUL - South Korea and Canada finalized years of negotiations on their bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) on Tuesday after summit talks between South Korean President Park Geun-hye and her Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrived in Seoul Monday evening to conclude the long-drawn-out FTA negotiations, which started in 2005, but later ground to a halt over disputes about import ban on Canadian beef.

Park and Harper held a summit in Seoul to wrap up the bilateral FTA negotiations. The South Korea-Canada FTA, signed Tuesday by trade ministers of the two countries, was widely expected to take effect in 2015 after domestic procedures for the ratification.

"We are committed to finalizing the legal review and required domestic procedures expeditiously with the mutual intention that the agreement will enter into force as soon as possible," the ministers said in a joint declaration.

South Korea became the first Asian country to sign the free trade pact with Canada, which has reached free trade deals with nine countries. The nine deals were small in size except for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Trade between the two countries stood merely at $9.9 billion as of 2013 as Canada depends heavily on the NAFTA members for more than 60 percent of its trade.

Under the deal, tariffs on 97.5 percent of goods will be removed both in South Korea and Canada within 10 years after the FTA takes effect.

South Korea will remove a 40 percent import duty on Canadian beef within 15 years, while eliminating a tariff of 22.5-25 percent on pork imported from Canada over the next 13 years.