SEOUL - South Korea and Canada on Tuesday struck a free trade deal after nearly nine years of negotiations, agreeing to phase out tariffs on most imports and exports within 10 years of the deal's effectuation.
The agreement came after President Park Geun-hye and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper held a summit in Seoul to discuss an array of bilateral and global issues including security and economic cooperation.
"The South Korea-Canada FTA can be called a new rule of bilateral cooperation. We have high expectations for a deepening of economic cooperation with Canada based on the deal," President Park said during the summit at Cheong Wa Dae.
Park also called on Harper to give Canada's support for Korea's participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a mooted US-led deal to create a free trade bloc linking Pacific Rim states.
"After the bilateral FTA, another framework with which we can strengthen bilateral trade and investment is the TPP," she said. "With the synergistic effect of the FTA and TPP, we can further enhance our access to each other's markets."
Last year, Seoul expressed its intention to join the TPP.
Harper, who arrived in Seoul for a two-day visit on Monday, expressed hopes that the FTA would further deepen bilateral economic ties.
"I am accompanied by a very strong delegation of ministers and parliamentarians, along with a strong business delegation … (to) use today's (FTA) agreement to rapidly develop economic ties between our two countries," he said.
In their joint statement after the summit, the two leaders hailed the bilateral FTA as the "foundation for a new era of mutually beneficial bilateral relations."
"We are committed to finalizing the legal review and required domestic procedures expeditiously with the mutual intention that the agreement will enter into force as soon as possible," the statement said.
"Once implemented, the agreement is expected to bring significant benefits for the Canadian and Korean economies, business communities, including small and medium enterprises and customers."