Obama says no deal yet on S. Korean trade agreement
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – In a sharp setback, the United States and South Korea failed to reach agreement on an elusive free-trade deal but will continue pressing for an accord in the weeks ahead, President Barack Obama said Thursday.
Obama had hoped to announce a deal on the long-stalled pact while in South Korea for meetings of the Group of 20 economic powers, but instead he will return home empty-handed.
“We have asked our teams to work tirelessly in the coming days and weeks to get this completed,” Obama said at a joint news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.
“We don’t want months to pass before we get this done,” Obama said. “We want this to be done in a matter of weeks.”
Prospects for reaching a deal seemed unlikely before Obama’s meeting and subsequent appearance with his South Korean counterpart.
At issue is a pact to slash tariffs and other barriers to trade, one that was signed in 2007 when previous administrations were in power. It remains unratified by lawmakers in both countries, and trade between the nations has slipped. The U.S. wants the deal to address a trade imbalance and beef access to South Korea’s market before submitting it to Congress.
On North Korea, Obama said the reclusive communist nation must show a “seriousness of purpose” before the U.S. will restart six-party talks aimed at curbing the country’s drive to become a nuclear power.
Earlier in the day in a speech marking America’s Veterans Day, Obama condemned North Korea for continuing on “a path of confrontation and provocation” that he says deepens its isolation from the world and worsens the poverty of its people.
“We’re not interested in just going through the motions with the same result,” Obama said.
Obama is in Seoul to attend meetings Thursday and Friday of the Group of 20 economic powers. He pledged that the G-20 nations will reach broad consensus on balanced, sustainable economic growth.
He again defended as prudent and stable steps by the U.S. to climb out of its deep economic slump. But he declined to comment on the recent decision by the U.S. Federal Reserve to buy $600 billion in bonds, which angered many trading partners.
Obama stressed that a strong U.S. economy was essential for a global recovery. He called the American economy a “huge engine” that will impel other countries to grow.
He declined to comment on proposals released Wednesday in Washington by a deficit commission he created, choosing to wait for a final report. But he said “tough choices” will be required to reduce the federal red ink. The commission’s bipartisan leaders proposed cutting Social Security benefits, deep reductions in federal spending and higher taxes for millions of Americans.