OTTAWA, Ontario – Canada and South Korea are now partners in free trade.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and South Korean President Park Geun-hye signed the Canada-Korea free-trade agreement Sept. 22. It marks Canada's first ever trade deal in the Asia Pacific region.

The bilateral agreement is expected to remove tariffs on Canadian agri-food exports. The Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA) noted that the lack of an agreement in the region has meant a substantial shrinking market share for all Canadian agri-food products, including beef, pork, canola and grain.

“The next step is for this agreement to be implemented as soon as possible,” said Lisa Skierka, president of CAFTA. “We welcome today's announcement and call on the Canadian and Korean governments to bring it into force in early 2015. “Canadian agri-food products need a level-playing field in order to access the Korean market. With this agreement in place, we will finally be able to do just that.”

CAFTA estimates that Canada exports 70 percent of its pork and 90 percent of its canola to foreign markets. News reports place existing trade between Canada and South Korea at $10 billion. That number is expected to grow by 32 percent.