FREE TRADE PUSH: The leaders of South Korea and the United States agreed to try to finalize a long-stalled free trade deal ahead of a summit of major economies set for late next week, the office of South Korea’s president said.
THE BACKDROP: Seoul and Washington negotiated the agreement to slash tariffs and other barriers to trade in April 2007 and signed it three months later. President Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak agreed in a telephone call Tuesday to make efforts to finalize the deal before the G-20 summit Nov. 11-12 in Seoul, Lee’s office said.
THE OBSTACLES: The deal has gone nowhere since 2007 amid changes in government in both countries, the global economic slump and demands by the United States that South Korea make concessions on trade in autos and beef. Bilateral trade between South Korea and the U.S. totaled $66.7 billion in 2009, down sharply from $84.7 billion in 2008.