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South Korea, U.S. agree on deal to save trade pact

By Doug Palmer

COLUMBIA, Maryland (Reuters) - The United States and South Korea have a reached a deal on auto issues that have blocked congressional approval of a free-trade agreement for three years, sources familiar with the talks said on Friday.

As part of the deal, South Korea agreed to let the United States keep a 2.5 percent tariff on Korean-built cars for five more years, rather than cut it immediately, the sources said.

U.S. negotiators wrapped up several days of talks with South Korean official early on Friday and left the hotel venue north of Washington in a jubilant mood.

"We made substantial progress in our discussions," U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in a statement after a final meeting with South Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon.

"It's time for the leaders to review this progress before we move forward," Kirk said.

Once that has been done, "then we will synchronize the same time and date to go into a detailed announcement," the South Korean trade minister said before heading to the airport.

South Korea is the United States' seventh-largest trading partner and eighth-largest export market. Last year, the United States exported $28.6 billion worth of goods to South Korea and imported $39.2 billion of products from that country, for a U.S. deficit of 10.6 billion.

The two countries agreed to work with Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus to address his concerns about remaining restrictions on imports of U.S. beef, but South Korea did not commit to any immediate action, the sources said.

(Editing by Bill Trott)

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