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S. Korea signs free-trade deal with 5 Central American countries

South Korea signed a free-trade deal with five Central American countries on Wednesday, amid ongoing sparring between Seoul and Washington over their existing trade agreement. Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong signed the pact with economic ministers from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, a spokeswoman for the Seoul ministry said, according to AFP. The treaty will take effect in each country as it is ratified. It will provide the world’s 11th-largest economy with a “third route” to the US in the face of mounting trade protectionism in Washington, according to the ministry. Seoul and the US have their own free-trade agreement, known as KORUS, but they have begun talks on renegotiating it at Washington’s demand. US President Donald Trump has repeatedly condemned the pact as a “horrible deal” and a “disaster.” The two allies are at loggerheads over tariffs on steel, washing machines and other goods imposed by Washington in recent weeks.