OTTAWA - Canada’s new free trade agreement with South Korea — its first with an Asian nation — marks an important foothold in a region where the federal government is striving to make economic inroads, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.
Harper joined Park Geun-hye, president of South Korea, in Ottawa Monday to formally sign the agreement that is the product of years of negotiations.
Both leaders praised the long relationship between the two nations and said the trade pact will mean closer economic ties in the future.
“This landmark agreement will bring immeasurable benefits to both our countries,” said Harper, vowing that the deal will mean more jobs and investment along with more choice and better prices for consumers.
Harper said South Korea and Canada have much in common, living in the shadow of larger nations — the United States and China.
“We are countries that share values and share interests. At the same time countries that have to work with others to be effective because we’re surrounded by giant neighbours who often take all of the attention,” he said on Parliament Hill.
“This is an ideal partnership for us, especially for the launch of our trade strategy in the Asia-Pacific.”
Park echoed that theme as she said that South Korea’s technology and Canada’s raw materials make the deal a “win-win.”
“The fact we are natural complementary global partners indicates that there is great growth potential,” she said, speaking in Korean.
“Both sides have these strengths and advantages which complement each other. If we co-operate in such a way then we will have a win-win situation,” she said.
The two leaders also touched on the political tensions of the Korean peninsula as North Korea’s regime keeps the region on edge.
“We agreed that it was important to create a sustainable peace,” Park said,
Reflecting on the Canadian contribution to the Korean conflict more than six decades ago, Harper said that Canada would continue to back efforts to bring lasting peace to the peninsula.
“We all look forward to the day when all Koreans can come together and enjoy the blessings of freedom,” he said.
The free trade deal, which must first be endorsed by Parliament, would see most tariffs eliminated — many immediately but some reductions would be phased in. The Conservatives are expected to introduce the necessary legislation this week.