Canada’s prime minister in Seoul to finalize FTA

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Canada’s prime minister in Seoul to finalize FTA

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he intends to finalize a trade deal with Korea on a trip that started yesterday, after the two countries struggled for more than eight years to reach an agreement.

“This is an important step forward not just for our economy but also for our relations with a country that has long been a friend and ally,” he said.

Harper said the deal would be Canada’s first in the Asia-Pacific region. Korea is “a relatively open economy, a relatively very progressive economy, an advanced democracy, and it has trade links all through Asia,” he said. “So this is really the best gateway you can get into long-term trade agreement access in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Harper will meet with Korean President Park Geun-hye during the trip, which ends today, the prime minister’s office said in a separate statement.

Negotiators are finalizing details on auto-safety standards required by the Korean government, a person briefed on the talks said last week. U.S.-based automakers with operations in Canada, such as General Motors and Ford Motor, are concerned such standards could be used as indirect trade barriers.

The countries are discussing how to phase out tariffs on Korean automobiles imported into Canada, and how to develop a dispute-settling mechanism. A pact with Korea would be the latest trade agreement signed by Harper, who reached a deal in principle with the European Union in October.


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