Top US Senators press Obama on S.Korea trade pact

WASHINGTON, May 10, 2010 (AFP) - Two senior US senators pressed President Barack Obama in a letter released Monday to submit a long-delayed free trade agreement with South Korea to Congress for approval.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry, a Democrat, and the panel's top Republican, Senator Richard Lugar, urged Obama to work with lawmakers to end feuds over beef and automobiles that have held up the pact.

"Submission of the agreement to Congress also would be considered a significant show of solidarity with a close and reliable ally," they said in a letter dated Friday, calling for action "as soon as possible."

South Korea said in mid-November that it was ready for talks to ease concerns among US lawmakers about the accord, notably on market access for US beef exports and automobiles.

US lawmakers have cited official figures showing that South Korea shipped about 700,000 cars to the United States in 2007 -- the year the agreement was signed -- while just 5,000 moved in the opposite direction.

Analysts in Seoul have said the figures exclude more than 125,000 vehicles made by a General Motors subsidiary in Korea while including vehicles made by a Hyundai plant in Alabama.

"A renewed commitment to move on the KORUS FTA will create an atmosphere more conducive to resolution of these issues," said Kerry and Lugar.

"The Korean government has not yet ensured that US beef exporters have access to Korea’s markets in accordance with international standards, and Korea’s history of non-tariff barriers to its automotive sector also raises serious concerns," they said.

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