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New US-South Korea trade pact spurs hopes for Nafta, China deals

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The signing of a renegotiated free trade agreement between the US and South Korea is spurring optimism that export markets for American farm goods won't shut down and may even expand.

New York

THE signing of a renegotiated free trade agreement between the US and South Korea is spurring optimism that export markets for American farm goods won't shut down and may even expand.

US President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in signed the agreement on Monday (Tuesday morning, Singapore time) on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, the first major trade deal that the US president has forged amid rising trade tensions.

It is welcome news for US farmers worried that the closing of export markets, especially China, will exacerbate the impact of low prices due to expanding supplies of corn, soybeans, beef, pork and chicken.

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South Korea is the sixth-largest export market for US agriculture, buying US$6.9 billion worth of farm goods last year, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The free-trade agreement with the two countries has helped make South Korea the second-largest importer of US beef after Japan by sales.

"Renewal of our trade deal with South Korea is much needed good news and help for our farmers and ranchers as the agricultural economy struggles," Zippy Duvall, the federation's president, said on Monday. "Securing export markets for our products is critical, and we encourage the administration to continue to push for conclusion of other trade agreements."

Those include pacts with China, Mexico and Canada and looking to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an agreement Mr Trump pulled the US out of as soon as he took office in January 2017. The so-called TPP agreement would boost US agricultural exports by US$4 billion per year, according to the federation.

"I am optimistic that the dominoes will continue to fall - the US-South Korea FTA, then a new Nafta, and new agreements with the European Union, Japan, and most notably, China," agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement on Monday. BLOOMBERG

READ MORE: China accuses US of putting 'knife to its neck' in trade row

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