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S. Korea's Lee signs bills to implement FTA with U.S.

(Xinhua)

20:24, November 29, 2011

SEOUL, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Tuesday completed the process to implement a contentious free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States by signing a slew of bills.

"The free trade agreement will open the door to the American market, which is the world's largest," Lee said after signing the bills. "Let's overcome (economic difficulties) by taking advantage of the agreement."

Vulnerable domestic industries should be well prepared to boost their competitiveness to survive market competition, the president added.

The move came after Lee's ruling Grand National Party rammed through the trade pact last week despite fierce resistance from opposition lawmakers, following the endorsement by the U.S. Congress last month.

The opposition even resorted to tear gas in their desperation, but it did little to stop the conservative ruling party, which holds a comfortable parliamentary majority, from passing the long- stalled bill.

Policy think tanks here say the bilateral deal will create 350, 000 new jobs and increase South Korea's gross domestic product ( GDP) by 5.66 percent, but critics dispute the estimate.

Claiming the deal only favors Washington's interests and will be a blow to the agricultural industry and small business owners, liberal and left-leaning opposition parties have denounced the unilateral move and called the legislative approval "invalid".

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