WASHINGTON–White House diplomatic efforts if successful should open a major Asian market for insurance, an industry trade group said.

The American Insurance Association, in a statement praising the Bush administration, said remarks by officials that they will continue to pursue free trade agreements this year are “encouraging” because these pacts enhance the market expansion initiatives of insurers and benefit U.S. consumers.

“We commend Ambassador Susan Schwab, the U.S. Trade representative, for her foresight in emphasizing that free trade agreements with Columbia, Panama and Korea are critically important because they provide mutual economic benefits, and because these agreements also solidify partnerships with vital allies,” Marc Racicot, AIA president, said Friday.

“Korea’s insurance market is one of the top-ten largest in the world, and the proposed Free Trade Agreement addresses the critical issues that would open Korea’s large, sophisticated market to insurers,” he said.

Mr. Racicot said he also appreciated Ms. Schwab’s mention of the importance of the World Trade Organization Doha Round and good relations with China, that she voiced in a Thursday speech before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“We share U.S.T.R. Schwab’s view that economic engagement is the preferred path for solidifying U.S. global economic leadership,” Mr. Racicot said. “AIA will do its part to assist in the WTO talks to push for an outcome that increases economic growth and development and generates new trade flows in services,” he added.