“This agreement will create more jobs,” Mr. Lee said. “It will expand mutual investments into both of our countries. It will … be a win for both of our countries.”
The Obama administration said the deal will allow U.S. exports to South Korea to double in five years. The two men will visit a General Motors Co. plant near Detroit on Friday as Mr. Obama seeks to highlight the potential impact of the deal on the U.S. auto industry.
In his welcoming remarks, Mr. Obama described the United States as “a Pacific nation” and said the bond between the two countries is stronger than ever.
“Our alliance reflects a broader truth,” said Mr. Obama, who spent much of his childhood in Indonesia. “The United States is a Pacific nation, and America is leading once more in the Asia-Pacific. I’m proud to say that the alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea is stronger than it has ever been.”
Mr. Lee, a former senior executive with manufacturing giant Hyundai and a former mayor of Seoul, called the two nations “global partners” and “a force for good.”
The obvious friendship between the two leaders was not dampened by the weather. White House officials were planning to move the ceremony indoors, but decided to keep it outside. A drizzle turned to steady rain just as a military band struck up the “Star-Spangled Banner,” and the dignitaries opened umbrellas.
Mr. Lee said he had visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the Mall on Wednesday and paid his respects to the more than 37,000 U.S. soldiers who died in the conflict.
“The Korean people have never forgotten what these fallen soldiers and their families gave up,” Mr. Lee said. “We will always remain grateful to all of them.”