Negotiators of South Korea and the United States Monday wrapped up their eighth round of free trade agreement (FTA) talks, saying a final deal is "within grasp".
"Based on the progress we have made this week, I firmly believe that an agreement that creates mutually-lasting benefits for both countries is within our grasp," Wendy Cutler, the top US negotiator for the bilateral FTA talks, told reporters.
"The US is committed to completing this agreement by the end of March," Wendy said.
"Unprecedented progress we have made this week in the eighth and final round gives me increasing confidence that we can do this." Cutler's South Korean counterpart, Kim Jong-hoon expressed his optimism to the reporters, adding that "the conclusion of FTA negotiations is in sight."
"Groundwork has been laid for both sides to strike a deal in time," the official stressed.
Following the negotiation, both sides confirmed that there will be no more formal round of talks in the run-up to the deadline. The two sides will hold a series of informal meetings in Washington in the coming weeks to clear remaining problems, said South Korean officials.
According to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency, gaps still remain in autos and some sensitive agricultural products.
South Korea and the United States launched their FTA talks in June last year.
During the latest FTA talks in Seoul, thousands of protesters had staged series of demonstrations to express their strong opposition against the FTA deal.
(Xinhua News Agency March 13, 2007)