Government officials have announced a U.S./South Korea Free-Trade Agreement (FTA) that is expected to benefit many sectors of U.S. agriculture.

Hailed by some as the most expansive trade deal since NAFTA, the deal has been welcomed by the Obama administration as it comes on the heels of a report showing an uptick in U.S. unemployment figures.

South Korea is the globe’s fifteenth largest economy and has extremely high food prices. The new deal, which means substantial tariff drops on U.S. agricultural imports, is expected to provide much cheaper food for Koreans.

Up next for U.S. trade representatives: similar pending trade deals with Panama and Columbia.

“We did not finalize this agreement on my recent visit to South Korea,” said President Obama, shortly after the deal was announced. “And I didn’t agree to it then for a very simple reason: The deal wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t good enough for the American economy, and it wasn’t good enough for American workers.”

After further negotiations, Obama said the current agreement emerged that “includes several important improvements and achieves what I believe trade deals must do — it’s a win-win for both our countries.”

Pleased with the deal, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said U.S. agricultural exports to South Korea were valued at nearly $5 billion in 2010. The new agreement “will open the market even more for U.S. agriculture. A combination of tariff phase-outs, new tariff-rate quotas, and regulatory harmonization will result in improved access to Korea’s $1 trillion economy.”

Obama also pointed out the new trade deal holds provisions aimed at securing workers’ rights and protecting the environment.

The lowering of South Korean tariffs “alone are expected to boost annual exports of American goods by up to $11 billion,” said Obama. “And all told, this agreement — including the opening of the Korean services market — will support at least 70,000 American jobs. It will contribute significantly to achieving my goal of doubling U.S. exports over the next five years. In fact, it’s estimated that today’s deal alone will increase American economic output by more than our last nine free trade agreements combined.”

While not downplaying the deal’s importance, in the lead up to the agreement, representatives of several U.S. farm commodities — among them, beef, pork and rice — complained about remaining Korean import restrictions.