NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 17, 2009

When President Obama meets with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak this week, they should press for passage of the U.S.-Korea free-trade agreement (FTA), says Myron Brilliant, senior vice president for international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and president of the U.S.-Korea Business Council.

South Korea has a $1-trillion-a-year economy, and it is already our eighth-largest trading partner.  But it historically has had many barriers to imports that have prevented it from becoming an even bigger market for U.S. goods and services:

  • Last year, U.S. exporters shipped nearly $40 billion in manufactured and agricultural products to Korea, and in 2007, they sold nearly $13 billion in services there.
  • Once the FTA takes effect, 95 percent of two-way trade in consumer and electronic goods will become duty-free within three years; nearly two-thirds of U.S. agricultural products will be duty-free immediately.
  • The FTA provides strong legal protection that U.S. exporters and investors need to do business; it is such a good agreement that the European Union is close to concluding a similar FTA with Korea.
  • The FTA will boost U.S. annual exports to South Korea by $10 billion to $12 billion a year; it will tie the United States more tightly into the broader East Asian market and stimulate the U.S. economy at no fiscal cost.

U.S. domestic politics remain the only reason we have not moved forward with this deal.  Some interest groups oppose any trade agreement.  While we need to find ways to address legitimate concerns expressed by those who feel left behind, it makes no sense to stop measures to expand trade relations, says Brilliant.

Source: Myron Brilliant, "Free-trade Opportunity," June 16, 2009.

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