BRUSSELS, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Italy has given its backing toa European Union-South Korea free trade deal after intenselobbying from other EU member states and the deal is to go aheadfrom July next year, EU diplomats said on Wednesday.
EU trade deals with third parties require unanimous backingfrom all 27 EU member states, but Italy had resisted supportingthe pact out of concern it could damage its domestic carindustry. It wanted the deal's introduction to be delayed.
EU diplomats said they had agreed with South Koreanofficials that the pact would come into force from July 1, 2011-- six months later than originally planned -- and that hadsecured Italy's backing for the deal, one of the largest freetrade agreements the EU has negotiated with a third party.
Italy is expected to give formal notification during asummit of EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday, diplomats said.
While Italy's support is instrumental to the deal goingahead, it still requires the backing of the European Parliament,which is expected to approve it in a vote later this year.
EU officials say the agreement will create about 19 billioneuros ($24 bln) of new exports for EU producers. CombinedEU-South Korea trade in goods was worth about 53 billion eurosin 2009, according to EU figures.
The EU has been racing to secure an agreement with SouthKorea, the world's 12th largest economy and one of the few toavoid recession during the global economic downturn, as itwanted to strike a pact before the United States did so.
In 2009, Korea was the world's eight largest exporter andtenth largest importer, according to the World TradeOrganisation. The EU is the world's largest trading zone.
EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, who previouslyserved as EU trade commissioner and negotiated the early stagesof the South Korea deal, spoke at length to Italian officials inrecent days to push for their support, diplomats said.
South Korea and the EU are now expected to formally sign thepact at a summit on Oct. 6 in Brussels, they said.