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Obama: South Korea Trade Deal Will Spark Economy

President Barack Obama gestures during a statement on the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement in Washington, 04 Dec. 2010

U.S. President Barack Obama says a new free trade deal with South Korea will play a key role in accelerating America's economic recovery.

Mr. Obama spoke to reporters in Washington Saturday.

He promised the deal will increase U.S. exports by up to $11 billion a year and support at least 70,000 U.S. jobs - boosting the country's economic output more than the last nine trade deals combined.

The U.S. president said the agreement will especially benefit U.S. car companies by giving them greater access to South Korean consumers.

The deal still needs to be ratified by the two countries' legislatures. At least one key U.S. lawmaker, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, is already backing the agreement.

The deal is also getting support from America's number two automaker, Ford Motor Company, and a union representing auto industry workers. Both had opposed earlier versions of the agreement.

Mr. Obama told reporters he did not agree to the deal during a recent trip to South Korea because at the time it was not good enough for the American people. He says the new deal shows the U.S. will "stand up for American companies and American workers," while also benefiting South Korea.

The free trade agreement would lift tariffs on 95 percent of goods between the U.S. and South Korea within five years, but does not include any Korean concessions on U.S. beef products.

The issue of U.S. beef exports has been highly contentious.

The U.S. has been pushing Seoul to allow more U.S. beef products into the South Korean market.

If concluded, the deal would be America's largest trade pact since the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement.