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Posted : 2011-10-05 08:03
Updated : 2011-10-05 08:03

US hopes for ratification of FTA before Lee’s trip

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The U.S. State Department expressed hope Tuesday that Congress will ratify a free trade pact with South Korea before South Korean President Lee Myung-bak makes a state visit here next week.

"That is the hope," department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing. "We would like to see these passed quickly."

President Barack Obama on Monday submitted the free trade agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Colombia and Panama to Congress. Obama is scheduled to hold summit talks with Lee on Oct. 13.

Nuland pointed out the expected benefits from the FTAs.

In the case of the U.S.-South Korea agreement, she said, it could support as many as 70,000 U.S. jobs and could be worth $10-12 billion in new U.S. exports.

"So we think this is a good thing and we want to see the Congress act quickly," she said.

Korean officials said it would be highly symbolic if the FTA with South Korea is passed ahead of Lee's trip.

If it is, Lee is likely to have a chance to address the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously, they added.

Lawmakers are swiftly working on the bills.

The House Ways and Means Committee plans to hold a markup of the FTAs and the proposed renewal of the Trade Adjustment Authority program, designed to help workers displaced by trade, on Wednesday, according to its chairman, Dave Camp (R-Mich.)
In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he expects to pass the bills during the next work period, which ends on Oct. 24.

Meanwhile, the State Department spokeswoman would not be drawn into questions on the long-delayed confirmation of Sung Kim, a career diplomat nominated to become the U.S. ambassador to Seoul.

Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), assistant minority leader in the Senate, has reportedly placed a hold on the confirmation process. Kyl is known for a hard-line stance on North Korea.

Sources said Kyl seems to be obstructing the confirmation of Kim, who has long been involved in talks with Pyongyang, due to his displeasure with the Obama administration's policy on the communist nation.

Kyl's office refused to comment on related media reports.

"Well, I'm not going to get into our conversation with the Senate on any of our nominees," Nuland said. "You know that we stand behind all of them and try to help all of them."

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