OTTAWA, March 11 (Xinhua) -- A new free trade agreement (FTA)
signed by Canada and South Korea Tuesday drew mixed reactions in
the North America country, with the auto industry and manufacturing
sector complaining about being kept "in the dark" throughout the
negotiations, and grain growers congratulating on the signing of
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in Seoul that the
FTA with South Korea -- the country's first with an Asian market --
"gives Canadian businesses access to a booming G20 economy, but
more than that, the key supply chains that begin in Korea fan out
all across Asia."
The Canada-South Korea FTA was signed Tuesday by Harper and
South Korean President Park Geun-hye in Seoul, the capital of South
According to Canada's Conservative government, the bilateral
trade pact is expected to increase Canadian exports to the Republic
of Korea by 32 percent, about the equivalent of 1.7 billion
Canadian dollars annually. Meanwhile, South Korean exports should
grow by 20 percent a year, or around 1.3 billion dollars.
The FTA "can serve as a template for other trade negotiations in
the Asia-Pacific region, including with Japan and India," said
former Canadian Liberal industry minister John Manley, president
and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives.
But the country's official opposition New Democrats accused the
Conservative government of keeping the automobile industry and
manufacturing sector "in the dark throughout the negotiations"
leading up to the FTA.
Canada's largest private-sector union, Unifor, which represents
more than 39,000 workers in the auto industry, also said that
Canada failed to follow the United States in its 2012 free trade
deal with South Korea, which includes protections against import
surges into the U.S. market and a so-called snap-back provision
that enables the U.S. government to return tariffs to pre-
arrangement levels if Korean non-tariff barriers limit American
"We needed our political leadership to broker a deal that
addressed the reality that we have 100,000 Korean-made cars being
imported to our market, while we are exporting only 100 cars to the
Korean market," Unifor national president Jerry Dias said in a
Canadian automaker Ford Motor Co., who claimed that Canada
imported about 131,000 South Korean vehicles while exporting only
3,000 in 2012, said it is concerned that the FTA will remove
Canada's 6.1-percent tariff, over three years, on imports from such
Korean companies as Kia Motors Corp. and Hyundai Corp.
Harper told reporters in Seoul that Canada needs to diversify
its exports beyond the U.S., which bought 76 percent of this
country's foreign shipments in 2013, and the trade pact with South
Korea will enable Canadian companies and sectors "to have the same
access that Ford already has."
Meanwhile, Canada's grain growers congratulated Harper on
signing the deal, expecting significant gains in export sales
opportunities for grains and oilseeds producers and a boost for the
With tariffs for agricultural exports to South Korea currently
averaging over 52 percent, this trade deal will lead to expanded
trade of wheat, grains, oilseeds and pulses, while providing a much
needed boost to Canada's pork and beef exports to South Korean
"This Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement will greatly enhance
farmers' market access in South Korea and opens the door to further
opportunity in the Asia-Pacific region," said Gary Stanford, Grain
Growers of Canada President in a statement. "We urge the Government
of Canada and Parliament to implement the Canada-Korea Free Trade
Agreement as quickly as possible."
Currently, South Korea is Canada's seventh-largest merchandising
trading partner and its third largest in Asia, after China and
Japan, with whom Canada is pursuing a free trade deal.
Trade between Canada and South Korea reached about 10.1 billion
dollars in 2012, Harper's office said in a statement.
The Canada-Korea FTA, which follows nearly a decade of
negotiations and could come into effect within a year, covers a
wide range of sectors from the automotive to the agricultural. But
for Canadian businesses, Ottawa highlighted the elimination of
tariffs on most goods within 10 years.
On average, Korean tariffs are three times higher than Canada's
or 13.3 percent versus 4.3 percent according to the Canadian
government. A level playing field will assist Canadian beef and
pork, forestry and wood, and fish and seafood exporters who face
high duties when shipping to South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest
economy. Enditem (1 U.S. dollar = 1.1106 Canadian dollars)