Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

South Korean President 'sympathetic' to FTA - PM

Though his time in Seoul this week is dominated by war commemorations, Prime Minister John Key says South Korean President Park Guen-hye will be "under no illusions" a free trade agreement is at top of the agenda for his visit.

Mr Key arrived in the South Korean capital last night, and this morning, at the head of a group of New Zealand war veterans laid a wreath at the Korean National Cemetery.
He is to meet President Park later today.

Earlier he told reporters: "We'll go through the formal parts of meeting first in terms of commemorating 60 years since the armistice and working through other bilateral issues", including a resumption of talks toward a free trade agreement (FTA).

"They'll be under no illusions this is a very important issue from our perspective."

Free trade talks with South Korea began under former President Lee Myung-bak but have since stalled.

Mr Key said President Park indicated she was receptive to an FTA with New Zealand when he met her prior to her election late last year.

"I think we'll just have to see how sympathetic she is now that she's president."

Mr Key has met President Park, the daughter of South Korea's former military ruler Park Chung-hee, twice before.

"I found her warm and engaging when I met her last time, and she's obviously a formidable political person and leader for Korea.

"She's well liked here and in the end, she's the person that calls the shots. So if we are going to get an FTA with Korea it will be because President Park makes it happen."

Mr Key even underlined the importance of an FTA when he spoke to veterans at New Zealand ambassador Patrick Rata's residence this morning following the wreath laying.

He pointed out New Zealand exporters to South Korea pay about $200 million a year in tariffs on $1.55 billion worth of goods while Korean imports only face tariffs of about $5 million on about $1.8 billion in goods.

Mr Key will meet President Park at the Blue House presidential palace at 5pm today New Zealand time.

- NZ Herald

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