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South Korea, Australia Sign Free Trade Deal

Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott (L) speaks next to his South Korean counterpart Park Geun-hye during a news conference at the presidential house in Seoul, April 8, 2014.
Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott (L) speaks next to his South Korean counterpart Park Geun-hye during a news conference at the presidential house in Seoul, April 8, 2014.
VOA News
South Korea and Australia have signed a free trade deal aimed at realizing the "untapped potential" between two of Asia's largest economies.

The deal would immediately lift levies on key agricultural and technological goods and would aim to do away with almost all tariffs within ten years.

Speaking in Seoul on Tuesday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott called the pact "historic" and mutually beneficial.

"Economically, there is huge untapped potential in the relationship between our two countries and I am determined to build on this and I believe that what we have signed today makes this a historic moment in the relationship between Australia and Korea," said Abbott.

Though Australia and South Korea are among East Asia's most important economies, bilateral trade has been limited, coming in at just over $30 billion last year.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye said the deal would help boost that figure, as well as help create more investment and jobs in both countries.

Park also said she and Abbott agreed to strengthen security cooperation in light of the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

"The Prime Minister Abbott and I shared a common view that it is important to strengthen mutual assistance on foreign diplomacy and security issues, in this rapidly changing security situation in the region," said Park.

Abbott arrived in Seoul from Japan, where he announced a separate free trade agreement on Monday with Tokyo.

The Australian prime minister, who on Wednesday flies to Beijing, said he is open to finalizing a free trade deal with China "as soon as possible."

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