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U.S. Trade Rep Touts Beefy South Korea Deal

Monday, 2 Apr 2007 | 5:05 PM ET

"Nineteen minutes to spare": A dramatic last-minute victory united America and South Korea Monday, as the two countries arrived at a historic economic agreement. Ambassador Susan Schwab, U.S. trade representative, joined CNBC's Erin Burnett to describe the "ambitious outcome."

U.S.-South Korea Free-Trade Pact
The U.S. and South Korea are reaching a free-trade agreement. CNBC's Christine Tan talks to Mark Michelson, Vice Chairman of APCO Asia, about the deal.

Schwab noted that ironing out America's first free trade deal in northeast Asia was "harder than we thought" -- but don't blame Democratic opposition to the Bush Administration. Instead, she cited the challenge of interweaving "two very complex economies," noting that the pact is "probably the fastest free-trade agreement we've ever negotiated."

A mere 19 minutes later, and the deal would have been prohibited by the deadline ending President George W. Bush's "fast-track" trade-deal authority.

As to the benefits, Schwab pointed out that South Korea is the world's tenth-largest economy, and is already the U.S.' seventh-biggest trading partner; the two nations currently enjoy trade of more than $70 billion -- and the pact could add another $20 billion. On the short list to gain from the deal: U.S. ranchers. South Korea would phase out its 40% tariffs on U.S. beef -- after it drops its outright ban on U.S. beef imports.

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  • Brian Sullivan is co-anchor of CNBC's "Street Signs."

  • Co-anchor of CNBC's "Street Signs," Amanda Drury is based at the network's global headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.