SOUTH KOREA - President Park Geun-hye arrived in New York early Tuesday morning (Korean time) to attend the United Nations General Assembly and climate summit to discuss ways to combat climate change.
Park is scheduled to deliver an opening speech at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday. She is likely to call for international support to bring peace to the divided Korean Peninsula and the Asia-Pacific region. Park's visit to New York marks her debut at the UN since taking office last year.
Her trip to the United States is part of a weeklong overseas trip. Before New York, the South Korean president made a three-day state visit to Canada to boost bilateral relations with the North American country.
During her visit, South Korea and Canada signed a broad free trade deal that will gradually lift almost all tariffs on agreed products to be traded between both nations over the next 10 years.
The two sides described the deal as a "historic initiative that will strengthen our trade and investment ties across the Pacific," according to the text of a joint declaration issued following a summit between Park and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The free trade deal is the ninth for South Korea -- the first Asian nation to sign an FTA with Canada, according to Seoul officials.
The free trade deal allows the two countries to lift almost all tariffs on agreed-upon items over the next 10 years. South Korea expects to enjoy benefits for its automobile sector under the agreement.
Canada is required to eliminate its current 6.1 per cent import tariffs on South Korean cars within three years of the deal's effectuation. The agreement could allow South Korean carmakers to enjoy benefits like those granted to American and Japanese competitors, which manufacture automobiles in Canada.
In 2013, South Korean exported over 130,000 vehicles worth some $2.23 billion (S$2.83 billion) to Canada. The shipments of automobiles to Canada accounted for 42.8 per cent of Seoul's total exports to the North American country. Two-way trade amounted to nearly $10 billion last year, officials said. But the deal is expected to have negative ramifications for South Korea's agricultural industry, causing 32 billion won ($30.7 million) worth of losses per year. To support Korean farmers, the government will come up with 2.1 trillion won worth of countermeasures, Cheong Wa Dae said.
The South Korean government said it will request for the National Assembly to approve the deal with Canada early next month.
During the summit, Park and Harper also agreed to expand bilateral cooperation in such fields as energy and research and development in the Arctic. The two leaders also urged North Korea to abandon its missile and nuclear weapons programs, and voiced concerns over its dismal human rights record.