Lee to visit Detroit together with Obama

President invited to deliver speech to Congress during U.S. visit Friday

Korean President Lee Myung-bak will visit the Detroit area later this week with U.S. President Barack Obama, a presidential aide here said Saturday, in what appeared to be a trade-related visit.

Lee and Obama are scheduled to visit the heart of the U.S. auto industry on Friday, a day after they hold a summit meeting in Washington, said the presidential aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“President Lee will visit Detroit together with Obama after finishing his schedule in Washington,” the official said.

Lee is scheduled to arrive in Washington on Tuesday for a four-day state visit.

The Detroit trip by the two presidents appears to be related to a bilateral free trade agreement, on which the U.S. Congress is expected to affirmatively vote during Lee’s visit to the U.S.

Earlier, U.S. media, quoting White House officials, reported that the two presidents will visit the Detroit area together but didn’t say where exactly in the city they will visit.

The Korea-U.S. FTA, signed in 2007, has been pending largely because of U.S. complaints about what it called a lop-sided imbalance in auto trade. The agreement was re-written late last year to address the U.S. concern.

Despite domestic criticism, Korea’s ruling Grand National Party plans to ratify the pact by the end of this month.

Opposition parties demand re-negotiations, arguing that the deal disadvantages South Korea.

In an address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress scheduled for Thursday, Lee will stress that the FTA will solidify the alliance and greatly help promote trade which reached $90.2 billion in 2010.

For the U.S., the FTA with South Korea is the biggest since the North American FTA put into force in 1994.

Lee would be the first South Korean president to address the U.S. Congress in 13 years. The late Kim Dae-jung delivered a speech to Congress in 1998.

The White House, meanwhile, said Lee’s upcoming visit reflects the “strong bonds of friendship” between the two sides.

“This visit will highlight the strong alliance, the global partnership and the deep economic ties between the United States and the Republic of Korea,” press secretary Jay Carney said at a press briefing.

“The visit will also celebrate the strong bonds of friendship between the American and Korean people.”

(From news reports )

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