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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S., South Korea Conclude Landmark Free Trade Deal

SEOUL, South Korea -- The United States and South Korea concluded a landmark free trade agreement Monday, officials said, culminating 10 months of negotiations in a final week of intense haggling that just beat a key U.S. legislative deadline.

The deal, which requires approval by lawmakers in both countries, is the biggest for the United States since the North American Free Trade Agreement, which took effect in 1994. It is the largest ever for South Korea.

South Korea and the United States agreed to eliminate and lower tariffs and other trade barriers in a wide range of industrial goods and services, including financial services. The agreement also covered sectors such as e-commerce.

"The free trade agreement we are announcing today is a historic accomplishment," Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Karan Bhatia told reporters.

Negotiations began last June in Washington amid much fanfare. Both sides strongly advocated a deal, saying it would boost economic growth between the countries, which already trade more than $75 billion per year.

But disputes in sectors such as automobiles and agriculture slowed progress, forcing a final round of intense talks in Seoul since last Monday.

South Korea, under pressure from farmers who were worried that eliminating protections on rice would destroy the domestic industry, succeeded in keeping the staple food out of the deal. Seoul agreed to lower tariffs on other agricultural goods, including U.S. oranges.

The sides also agreed to eliminate and phase out tariffs on automobiles, with South Korea also agreeing to change its tax structure for larger vehicles, which Washington claimed was discriminatory.