WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will be at a competitive disadvantage in the South Korean market unless Congress approves a bilateral free trade agreement signed two years ago, a Korean official said on Thursday.
"Korea strongly hopes this agreement will be put into effect as soon as possible," South Korean Ambassador to the United States Han Duk-soo said.
He spoke at the Heritage Foundation in Washington not long after European Union and South Korean officials initialed a bilateral free trade pact. That agreement should be in force by the middle of next year, Han said.
Korea hopes for progress on U.S. autos and other concerns blocking approval of the U.S.-Korea agreement by the time President Barack Obama visits the country in November, Han said.
Approval of the deal would be an "economic stimulus" package for both countries, Han said.
"Trade is not a source of the problem, but ... it can be part of the solution," Han said.
South Korea hopes the U.S. Congress will turn to the free trade agreement as soon as possible after it finishes its work on healthcare reform, he said.
Obama opposed the South Korea agreement during last year's campaign, but has said he wants to work with Congress and Seoul to resolve concerns about the pact.
(Reporting by Doug Palmer, Editing by Sandra Maler)