Sun, Jul 17, 2005 - Page 11 News List

Canada to engage in free-trade talks with South Korea

AP , OTTAWA

Canada announced on Friday that it would open formal free-trade negotiations with South Korea as Ottawa aims for a firmer foothold in the booming Asian region.

The negotiations will start later this month in Seoul, the South Korean capital, said Trade Minister Jim Peterson, adding that a formalized trade pact with South Korea could be lucrative for a range of Canadian companies.

"Canada places great importance on emerging economies, and sees Korea as a strategic gateway to the dynamic northeast Asian region," Peterson said.

Current two-way trade between the two nations is about US$6.6 billion, most of it exports from South Korea into Canada.

A deal could even out the trade balance, though some industries worry about unfair competition. Some automakers and shipbuilders say the South Korean government's support for its industries is detrimental to competitors.

Canada hopes to eliminate tariffs for "substantially all trade" and will work to address non-tariff barriers, Peterson said in a statement.

He said a free-trade agreement could create new opportunities for Canadian businesses in such areas as agriculture, fisheries and natural resources, as well as in the machinery and equipment industries and among financial and professional services.

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun met in Santiago, Chile, last November and announced that the two nations would explore the feasibility of negotiating a trade agreement.

Canada believes such an agreement would improve market access for Canadian exporters, reduce the red tape and transaction costs for companies doing business with one another in both countries, and enhance market access in the areas of financial, high-tech and professional services.

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