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US, South Korea Seek to Finish Trade Deal

Women walk by a screen showing a G20 Seoul Summit sign at the venue for the upcoming summit meeting, scheduled November 11-12 in Seoul, South Korea, 02 Nov 2010

The United States and South Korea are trying to work out the final details of a stalled free trade agreement in advance of a planned meeting next week between leaders of the two countries.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak expressed confidence Wednesday that trade negotiators can agree in advance of his November 11 meeting in Seoul with U.S. President Barack Obama. The presidents will be meeting on the sidelines of a group of 20 summit of leading rich and emerging countries.

South Korea and the United States reached a basic agreement in April 2007. But implementation of the deal has been delayed by switches in political power in both countries, the global economic slump and the U.S. demand that South Korea allow more importation of American-produced vehicles and beef.

Negotiators are scheduled to start talks on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Washington said a deal can be accomplished if there is a "satisfactory agreement" on issues affecting U.S. workers.

The United States has the world's largest economy, while South Korea's is the 14th largest. Trade between the two countries totaled $66.7 billion in 2009, down sharply from the 2008 figure of $84.7 billion as the world economy struggled.

The U.S. International Trade Commission said that a trade deal between the two countries could boost annual U.S. exports to South Korea by about $9.7 billion to $10.9 billion.

Once final details of the deal are worked out, both the U.S. Congress and the South Korean National Assembly would have to approve the agreement before it could take effect.

South Korea recently signed a trade deal with the European Union that calls for 99 percent of commerce to be duty free within five years.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.