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(2nd LD) S. Korean industry bodies hail KORUS FTA
SEOUL, Dec. 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's industry bodies on Sunday expressed support for the announcement that remaining issues in the free trade agreement (FTA) between Seoul and Washington have been resolved, and called for an early ratification of the pact by the country's political leaders.

   "The agreement has succeeded in alleviating uncertainties in the U.S. market and enhancing the image of South Korean-made products, which will likely lead to increased trade," the Federation of Korea Industries (FKI), the largest business lobby in South Korea, said in a statement.

   "We believe the pact will contribute in strengthening economic and security ties between the two countries, and therefore request the government and parliament to speed up the ratification," the FKI added.

   Earlier in the day, Seoul's trade ministry said South Korea and the United States have reached new agreements on auto-related trade and other issues in their free trade deal in a bid to salvage the accord signed more than three years ago.

   Chief trade officials from both countries held a four-day meeting in Columbia, Maryland, this week to resolve differences that have blocked parliamentary ratification of the accord in both countries.

   Other industry organizations also voiced support for the bilateral easing of trade barriers.

   "We welcome the trade agreement reached after a three-and-half year delay. The trade pact has balanced the benefits of both sides appropriately," the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) said.

   The association also said, "Amid rising trade uncertainties -- such as slowing global economic growth, eurozone debt risks, and rising inter-Korean tension -- the early ratification of the KORUS FTA is important than ever."

   The auto industry also welcomed the free trade agreement, brushing off worries that it will be dented by rising U.S. car exports.

   "The agreement will greatly contribute in enhancing cooperative development and exchanges between the auto mobile industries of the two countries," the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA) said in a statement.

   The agreements were also approved on the U.S. side, with the American business community in South Korea applauding the latest developments made on the free trade deal.

   "This agreement is critical to the economies of both nations, but particularly to the durable recovery of the U.S. job market through increased exports. ... It also underscores Korea's continued intention to stand as a global leader on the free trade front," said David Ruch, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea (AMCHAM), in a statement.

   The U.S. business organization also said it hopes the trade pact will strengthen not only bilateral economic ties, but the political and military relationships between Seoul and Washington as well.

   "The U.S.-Korea alliance is a multi-faceted and comprehensive friendship. ... The KORUS FTA will add an important third pillar to our already strong bilateral political and military alliance," AMCHAM President Amy Jackson said in the statement.

   Founded in 1953, the AMCHAM in Korea represents around 2,000 members and 1,000 companies.

   mil@yna.co.kr
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