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Lee says alliance with U.S. ‘evolving into global alliance’

SEOUL, Oct. 17 (Yonhap) -- President Lee Myung-bak said Monday South Korea’s alliance with the United States is “evolving into a global alliance” under which the two countries are working together to tackle not only Korean Peninsula issues but global challenges as well.

Lee made the remark in his biweekly radio address a day after returning from a state visit to the United States for talks with President Barack Obama. During Lee’s visit, the U.S. Congress approved a free trade agreement between the two countries, a landmark deal expected to bring the allies closer together.

“The Korea-U.S. alliance is evolving into a global alliance under which the two countries work together to cope with global issues beyond Korean Peninsula problems. During the summit, we also talked about rebuilding Libya,” Lee said, celebrating that the trade pact has opened up a new chapter in the alliance.

Lee said that such a free trade pact is a must for South Korea, saying the resources-scarce nation cannot grow without exports. Lee has touted FTAs as part of efforts to expand the country’s “economic territory.”

Besides the agreement with the U.S., the fourth-largest Asian economy has seven FTAs already in effect, including those with the European Union and India, and is in negotiation with seven other nations, including Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand.

Lee said the series of FTAs mean 61 percent of the world has become South Korea’s “economic territory.”

The pact with the U.S. is expected to increase South Korea’s GDP by 5.7 percent within 10 years after taking effect and create some 350,000 jobs, Lee said.

Lee also said that the government is taking a series of measures to minimize the deal’s possible impacts on farming and other local industries.