S. Korea-Canada FTA to deepen partnership: Canadian governor general

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South Korean President Park Guen-hye toasts during a formal banquet with diplomatic delegates and envoys at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Feb. 26, 2013. (Yonhap file photo)

Yonhap 2013/02/26

(Yonhap Interview) S. Korea-Canada FTA to deepen partnership: Canadian governor general

SEOUL, Feb. 26 (Yonhap) — The absence of a free trade deal between South Korea and Canada is the weakest link in their bilateral relations, and the two countries need to conclude one this year to deepen their partnership in a wider range of areas, Canada’s visiting governor general said Tuesday.

Last year, South Korea and Canada agreed to resume talks for their free trade agreement (FTA) that have been suspended since 2008 over Seoul’s ban on Canadian beef imports due to concerns over mad cow disease. The ban was lifted early last year.

"I think the weakest link (in the relations between our two countries) would be the absence of the FTA. I hope we can remedy that this year by finalizing the negotiations," David Johnston said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency in Seoul.

Johnston is in South Korea to participate in the swearing-in ceremony of South Korea’s new President Park Geun-hye held on Monday.

"The FTA will not only enhance trade between our two countries, but it will be a symbol of partnership where we can do more for culture, education, technology and innovation, international engagements and security," he said. "The FTA can usher in truly whole new possibilities and collaborations between our two peoples."

His comments echo an earlier commitment to a quick conclusion of the bilateral deal made by Park and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper who agreed to push for it during telephone talks in January.

Calling North Korea’s nuclear test on Feb. 12 as "very troubling and worrisome," he stressed efforts to achieve peace based upon strong ties between Seoul and Ottawa.

"The latest provocation is worrisome because it is extreme not just for South Korea but for the entire world," he said. "We can find the best way (to resolve it) in the comments your president made in her speech; they were very thoughtful and appropriate, and very clearly seeking peace. The message of hope will reach out not just to the Korean people but all the people."

In her inauguration speech, Park expressed her "sincere hope that North Korea can progress as a responsible member of the international community instead of wasting its resources on nuclear and missile development, and continuing to turn its back to the world in self-imposed isolation."

Stressing the blood alliance between the two countries over the past 50 years, Johnston called for more efforts to promote the relations further.

"We lost many of our people here, and some 350 buried in the Korean soil. So there’s a longstanding alliance between Korea and Canada," he said.

The year 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between South Korea and Canada, and 60 years since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. About 27,000 Canadian soldiers fought on the side of South Korea under the U.N. flag during the war, the third largest number of troops among the allies, and 516 of them lost their lives.
"The message from both Queen Elizabeth and the Canadian government is that we’ve had 50 years of diplomatic relations with Korea that have been very propitious for our country. But we regard that as a foundation. We have much to celebrate, but we have much more to do together for both the nations," said the governor general, who is the federal vice regal representative of the Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.

Introducing his country’s experience of having a female leader back in 1993, Kim Campbell as the 19th premier, Johnston congratulated South Korea for electing its first female president by saying, "I am absolutely thrilled. I’m a father of five daughters, and they share my rejoice in that South Korea has a woman president."

graceoh@yna.co.kr

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source: Yonhap