The US and South Korea broke through a three-year deadlock on Friday to seal a sweeping free-trade agreement (FTA), which US President Barack Obama hoped would renew US leadership in Asia.
The agreement lifts tariffs on 95 percent of goods between the countries within five years, in what would be the largest US trade pact since the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico in 1994.
After nearly four days of talks in suburban Washington, negotiators cleared a key hurdle by letting the US move more slowly on lifting duties on South Korean cars after US carmakers feared a flood of imports.
The deal still needs ratification by the two countries’ legislatures. Obama won early support from a labor-backed congressman and the Ford Motor Co, former staunch opponents of the deal.
As a senator, Obama was a critic of the deal first negotiated in 2007 under then-US president George W. Bush. But on Friday, Obama said his team reached “the best deal for American workers and corporations,” saying it would create 70,000 US jobs through new exports — an estimate disputed by critics.
“It deepens the strong alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea and reinforces American leadership in the Asia Pacific,” Obama said in a statement.
In Seoul, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said the agreement would bring “huge benefit” to South Korea, which has embraced free trade deals as a strategy to promote an economy long in the shadow of economic giants Japan and China.
“When the FTA takes effect, South Korea will be the first country in the world that will have signed free trade deals with the United States, the EU and ASEAN and India,” he added.
Under the renegotiated agreement, the US will be allowed to keep its 2.5 percent tariff for five years, while South Korea would immediately cut its tariff in half to 4 percent. Both sides would eliminate tariffs after five years.
US officials said Seoul would also ease car safety and environmental standards that US automakers contend are a thinly disguised way to stifle foreign competitors through arbitrary requirements.
The revised agreement would let each US automaker export 25,000 cars per year that meet only US safety requirements — four times the current level.
Mitch McConnell, the top Republican senator, and Representative Sandy Levin, a Democrat from the auto manufacturing state of Michigan who is often critical of free trade deals, came out in support of the new agreement.
‘HERO OF THE ERA’: President Tsai Ing-wen expressed deep sadness at Lee’s passing, and told the government to assist his family with all their needs Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) passed away at 7:24pm yesterday at Taipei Veterans General Hospital. He was 97 years old. The hospital stated the cause of death as septic shock and multiple organ failure. Lee had been hospitalized there since February, when he choked on a mouthful of milk at home. He was later diagnosed with pulmonary infiltrates and aspiration pneumonia. The hospital said that Lee had been treated with antibiotics, but that his health had not improved, as his advanced age and diabetes had inhibited his immune system and led to recurring infections. During his hospitalization, Lee underwent daily kidney dialysis, which removed
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RECEIVING TREATMENT: President Tsai Ing-wen, Vice President William Lai and Premier Su Tseng-chang visited former president Lee Teng-hui yesterday morning Taipei Veterans General Hospital yesterday rebutted speculation that former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) had died a day earlier, saying that he was weak, but receiving treatment. The hospital said the 97-year-old Lee was not in good condition and needed ongoing care, adding that if there are any changes in his condition, it would make those public. The comments came after rumors emerged online on Tuesday that Lee had died after being hospitalized since early February. Soon after the unsubstantiated rumors emerged, reporters started flocking to the hospital seeking confirmation. Lee was admitted to Taipei Veterans General Hospital on Feb. 8 after choking while drinking
ROAD TO HISTORY: When Lee Teng-hui joined the KMT, the likelihood of a Taiwanese becoming ROC president, much less its first directly elected one, was hard to imagine Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who was born on Jan. 15, 1923, in the farming community of Sanshi Village, Taihoku Prefecture — now New Taipei City’s Sanzhi District (三芝) — during the Japanese colonial era, and rose to become mayor of Taipei and not only the Republic of China’s (ROC) first Taiwan-born president, but its first directly elected one as well. Educated in the Japanese educational system of the time, Lee, who spoke Japanese, Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese), Mandarin and English, won a scholarship to Kyoto Imperial University, but his studies were interrupted by World War II. He earned a bachelor’s