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McDonnell says Korea creates new market for Virginia agriculture

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Virginia’s farmers and wineries may find new customers in South Korea, especially if the U.S. Congress ratifies a free trade agreement with the country, Gov. Bob McDonnell said Monday.

McDonnell, holding a press conference call from Seoul at the end of his 11-day trade mission to Asia, described his meeting with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to discuss trade relations between South Korea and the U.S., including potential opportunities for Korean-Virginia trade in the information technology and agricultural sectors.

“We discussed what we saw as chief areas of increased trade between Virginia and Korea,” McDonnell said. “We told him about Virginia’s agricultural products. We talked to him about tobacco and wine, he asked about those.”

The agreement was originally signed in 2007, but has been ratified by neither country yet. McDonnell said he is urging Virginia’s congressional delegation to ratify the agreement. The Obama administration announced Monday it would withold sending that trade agreement, along with agreements with Colombia and Panama, unless Congress approved a training program for workers displaced by outsourcing.

“[The South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement] will make Virginia goods much more affordable and reduce barriers of importation of goods from Virginia into Korea,” McDonnell said.

“We know that nations like Japan and Korea and even to some degree China…have more people than they do resources to feed them. So pork, soybeans, peanuts and wine are all things we know there are markets for in Asia.”

In addition to his meeting with Myung-bak, McDonnell said the Virginia delegation had many one-on-one meetings with Korean companies. They included agricultural importers, who were interested in seafood, leaf tobacco, soybeans, wine and pork. Other meetings included companies involved in shipbuilding and energy.

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