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(LEAD) KORUS FTA may be effective in Feb.: trade minister
SEOUL, Dec. 14 (Yonhap) -- The free trade agreement (FTA) between South Korea and the United States may take effect by February next year despite more time needed for preparation, Seoul's top trade official said Wednesday.

   South Korea's ruling Grand National Party railroaded the contested FTA through parliament late last month. The deal was approved by the U.S. Congress in October. The two countries had set a Jan. 1 target for the pact's implementation.

   "Both sides are working to advance the implementation of the trade pact ... but it will take more time to complete procedures, and it is impossible to meet the agreed-upon date," South Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon said in a meeting with reporters.

   The trade ministry had previously stated that the exact time table for the implementation would be determined in mid-December.

   Kim said thorough preparation is needed for the implementation, adding that the exact date is not important at the moment.

   Related to the trade agreement, Finance Minister Bahk Jae-wan said in an interview on "news Y," the all-news channel affiliate of Yonhap News Agency, that the government has effectively accepted the 13 extra measures agreed upon by ruling and opposition parties to limit possible fallout.

   The measures call for such actions as giving more subsidies to farmers and fishermen to compensate for earning losses caused by cheaper U.S. imports, and expanding inexpensive electricity charges for farming communities, he said.

   The policymaker also said that for Seoul to take steps to reduce domestic damages caused by the trade pact, the National Assembly needs to approve next year's budget as soon as possible so money can be allocated for various support projects.

   The free trade accord, known as the KORUS FTA, was officially signed in June 2007 and was supplemented once in late December 2010 with minor modifications that primarily pertained to the auto industry.

   Two-way trade between South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest economy, and the United States reached an estimated US$90 billion last year, according to the Seoul government.

   The KORUS FTA will help the South Korea's economy expand more than 5 percent in the long term as it will lead to more exports by reducing trade barriers, a study showed. The deal will also create about 350,000 jobs, helping to ease tightened labor market conditions here, according to the report compiled by 10 local think tanks.

   The report predicted that South Korea will see its trade surplus with the U.S. increase by $140 million annually over the next 15 years after the FTA goes into effect. The nation's total global trade surplus will expand by an annual average of $2.77 billion, the report showed.

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