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Policy Brief 07-7

The Korea-US Free Trade Agreement: A Summary Assessment

by Jeffrey J. Schott, Peterson Institute for International Economics

August 2007

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Jeffrey J. SchottThe Korea–United States Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) opens up substantial new opportunities for bilateral trade and investment in goods and services and promotes important foreign policy interests of both countries. The FTA quickly removes most tariff barriers to auto trade and substantially reduces tax and regulatory burdens that impede sales of US cars in Korea; improves access to the Korean market for a wide range of US farm products; and opens up the Korean services market in key areas such as financial services, insurance, express delivery, and legal and accounting services. Nonetheless the ratification of the KORUS FTA has been controversial. In the United States attention has focused on both the auto sector, which accounts for almost one-quarter of bilateral trade and a large share of the US trade deficit with Korea, and Korean restrictions on US beef imports due to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) concerns. Several automakers and auto unions have opposed the deal, and the Democratic leadership in the US House of Representatives has demanded that the auto provisions be recast. In the US Senate, the resolution of the beef problem—which is now being addressed by Korean regulators—is a prerequisite to passage of implementing legislation. No clear timetable exists for the congressional vote and action may be deferred until 2008. The Bush administration will have to respond constructively to Democratic concerns about the FTA before the deal can be ratified and should consider new federal programs to help promote the competitiveness of US automakers. Doing so should attract a substantial minority of Democrats in the House, along with the majority of Republicans, to support the FTA. The stakes—in terms of both US economic and security interests in East Asia—are too great, and the costs too high, to reject the pact or defer a decision.


RELATED LINKS

Book: Witness to Transformation: Refugee Insights into North Korea January 2011

Peterson Perspective: North Korea's Immunity to Outside Pressure: Part I December 12, 2012

Policy Brief 10-1: The Winter of Their Discontent: Pyongyang Attacks the Market January 2010

Working Paper 10-2: Economic Crime and Punishment in North Korea March 2010

Paper: FTAs and the Future of US-Korean Trade Relations November 2009

Paper: Implementing the KORUS FTA: Key Challenges and Policy Proposals February 2008

Policy Brief 08-6: North Korea on the Precipice of Famine May 2008

Policy Brief 06-4: Negotiating the Korea–United States Free Trade Agreement June 2006

Working Paper 07-7: North Korea’s External Economic Relations August 2007

Book: Avoiding the Apocalypse: The Future of the Two Koreas June 2000

Book: Free Trade Between Korea and the United States? April 2001

Working Paper 08-4: Migration Experiences of North Korean Refugees: Survey Evidence from China March 2008