South Korean President Park Geun-hye was to hold summit talks with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Tuesday amid reports the two sides could announce the conclusion of a free trade deal after nine years of negotiations.
Harper arrived Monday for a two-day visit, his fourth trip to South Korea. Tuesday's summit will be the second time for Park and Harper to meet. They first met one-on-one on the sidelines of a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum last year.
Canadian reports have said Harper is expected to announce a free trade deal with South Korea during the trip. The Canadian leader has reportedly said that the envisioned trade pact could serve as a gateway for deals with other Asian countries.
The two countries launched free trade talks in 2005, but made slow progress due mainly to differences in the auto and agriculture sectors, with South Korea seeking to remove Canada's tariffs on car imports and Canada seeking to eliminate South Korea's tariffs on beef imports.
If concluded, the deal will mark Canada's first free trade pact with an Asian nation.
Canada is the world's 11th-largest economy and one of the Group of Eight nations. But trade volume between the two countries has been relatively small, with Canada being only the 25th-largest trade partner for South Korea. Two-way trade amounted to $10 billion in 2012.
The envisioned deal with Canada will be South Korea's 12th free trade pact. The other deals include those with the United States, the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The country has also been in negotiations on seven deals, including the one with Canada.
Park has vowed to aggressively pursue free trade deals with other nations.
Other topics for Tuesday's summit include ways to increase cooperation in energy and resources, science and technology, forest and other areas. The two leaders also plan to discuss the security situation on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, officials said. (Yonhap)