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Obama: South Korea trade pact a 'win-win'

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama said a trade accord with South Korea is a "win-win" for both countries that shows the alliance between them is "stronger than ever."

The trade deal offers "more choices for Korean consumers and more jobs for American workers," Obama told reporters in Washington Saturday, a day after the government reported the U.S. unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent in November.

The deal is one example of how the U.S. government can "do more to accelerate the economic recovery and create jobs for the millions of Americans who are still looking for work," he said.

The two nations Friday announced an agreement to change automobile provisions in the free-trade deal, removing an obstacle that had prevented agreement on the pact during Obama's visit to South Korea last month.

Obama requested the changes in the accord, which was negotiated during the administration of President George W. Bush, to meet demands from lawmakers and U.S. automakers including Ford Motor Co. regarding Korean barriers to American vehicles.

Winning the agreement was a key component of Obama's plan to double American exports in five years. With almost $68 billion in trade between the nations, the accord would be the United States' largest since the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994.

The White House said Friday the agreement will increase U.S. exports by as much as $11 billion and support at least 70,000 U.S. jobs.

Under the agreement, both nations will scale back initial tariff cuts for cars, and South Korea said it would allow more imports of U.S.-made vehicles that meet American standards rather than Korean rules. The U.S. will maintain a 25 percent tariff on truck imports for eight years instead of beginning to phase it out immediately.

- Bloomberg News

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