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FTA to ease NK nuclear concern

Korea Times

FTA to Ease NK Nuclear Concern

7 February 2006

SEOUL (Yonhap) — A free trade agreement (FTA) between South Korea and the United States would help ease concerns over North Korea’s nuclear weapons development, a high-ranking official said Tuesday.

``Should the FTA be forged with the U.S., the bilateral relationship will further improve, and that will help ease the risks related to North Korea,’’ Vice Finance Minister Kwon Tae-shin said in an interview with a cable television network.

The official also said the trade pact with the U.S. will help boost South Korea’s sovereign rating.

Last week, South Korea and the U.S. announced in Washington they will launch negotiations for a trade pact with the aim of concluding it in the first half of next year.

South Korea also said the deal will bring the two allies politically and economically closer.

Formal negotiations will begin in May, because the U.S. government is required to have three months of consultations with Congress before starting such talks.

``The government is considering financial support for the industry sectors directly hit by the trade pact,’’ Kwon said. ``However, it needs full support from citizens to do so.’’

The official said the economy, Asia’s fourth-largest, is improving, but a strong won and high oil prices are still posing threats to economic recovery.

``The strengthening won against the U.S. dollar is the evidence that our economy is in good shape,’’ he said, adding that the government is ready to step in if the currency market has a severe fluctuation.