South Korea The United States reached its biggest free trade agreement since NAFTA on Monday, clinching a last-minute deal with close security ally South Korea that it hopes will bolster bilateral ties and provide added spark to the Doha Round of global trade talks.
"The free trade agreement we are announcing today is a historic accomplishment," Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Karan Bhatia told reporters after eight days of talks. "It is an agreement for the 21st century."
The deal, which requires approval by lawmakers in both countries, is the biggest for Washington since the North American Free Trade Agreement signed in 1993, and is expected to lead to more than 90 percent of U.S. exports to South Korea being duty free within three years.
In Washington, two key senators warned, though, that the agreement will not win congressional approval unless South Korea drops a ban on the import of U.S. beef that it imposed in December 2003 after the first reported US. case of mad cow disease. Negotiators were unable to resolve the issue as part of the free trade talks.