- The Washington Times - Monday, April 2, 2007

2:01 p.m.

The United States and South Korea reached a free-trade agreement yesterday, just beating a congressional deadline for action.

“This is a historic moment for our two countries, ” U.S. Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab said.

“The completion of this landmark agreement is testimony to the industriousness, creativity and determination of our two peoples. It demonstrates that two countries with large, complex economies and robust public involvement in policy debates can work through great challenges to build stronger trade and investment ties,” she said.

The deal is the biggest for the U.S. since the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1993 and the largest ever for South Korea.

The pact immediately ran into trouble in Congress, though, with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, condemning the failure of negotiators to lift South Korea’s ban on U.S. beef.

Mr. Baucus said the agreement will not move forward in the Senate until the issue is resolved.

“This is an entirely unacceptable outcome,” he said. “I will oppose the Korea free-trade agreement, and in fact, I will not allow it to move through the Senate, unless and until Korea completely lifts its ban on U.S. beef.”

The committee’s senior Republican, Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, raised similar concerns.

“The political reality in Congress is that no matter the benefits, this agreement is dead on arrival until the beef issue gets resolved,” he said.

“I urge the Korean government to engage our administration in a strong effort to resolve the beef issue as quickly as possible,” he said.

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