President Obama welcomed South Korea’s president to the White House today as a valuable world partner. The pageantry came mere hours after Congress pushed through a long-delayed trade pact between both leaders’ countries.
In a rush of action timed to Lee’s visit, Congress yesterday approved free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. The administration says the three deals will boost U.S. exports by $13 billion a year and that just the agreement with South Korea will support 70,000 American jobs.
Lee declared the trade deal will be an engine of growth for both countries. “This historic achievement will open up a new chapter in our relationship,” he said.
Obama and his wife, Michelle, greeted Lee and his wife, Kim Yoon-ok, on the South Lawn for a formal arrival ceremony at the start of a state visit full of pomp, circumstance and substance.
The day was to include an Oval Office meeting between Obama and Lee and an address by Lee to a joint session of Congress, all culminating with a state dinner.
The trade deal will elevate the U.S.-South Korean alliance, traditionally defined by their opposition to communist-governed North Korea. More than 28,000 U.S. troops remain based in South Korea as a deterrent.
Under Obama, efforts to engage Asian nations have had their ups and downs. The key relationship with Japan has suffered from Tokyo’s conveyor belt of prime ministers, and the U.S. has struggled to realize an effective, strategic alliance with India.
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