|United States Ambassador to Korea Sung Kim looks on as an official points out arriving cargo at the Busan|
Port Authority in the southeastern-most port city and the gateway for a majority of U.S. imports entering
the country. Kim visited Busan on a two-day visit commemorating the anniversary of the Korea-U.S. Free
Trade Agreement, Thursday and Friday. (Yonhap News)
United States Ambassador to Korea Sung Kim lauded the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement during a visit to the southern port city of Busan on Thursday and Friday to mark the first anniversary of the trade pact that continues to divide politics here.
The Korea-U.S. FTA went into effect on March 15 last year, reducing or removing trade barriers between the two countries.
A considerable debate still rages between proponents of the agreement and its detractors, but one report by the Ministry of Strategy and Finance indicates Korea benefited.
Korea’s exports to the U.S. between March 15 last year and Feb. 28 this year totaled $57 billion, up 1.4 percent from a year earlier. The growth compared with a 2.3 percent fall in the country’s overall exports during the cited period, according to the government research as reported in the local media.
In particular, exports of products benefiting from the free trade deal expanded sharply. Auto parts and oil products, among other things, saw their shipments to the U.S. increase 10.9 percent and 29.3 percent, respectively, the report showed.
“With KORUS’ implementation, we are seeing a wider variety of American products on the shelves of stores, at more affordable prices,” Kim said during a speech to the Korea Employer’s Federation Management Forum at around the time of the government study.
The U.S. Embassy emphasized what it described as the trade pact’s boost to Korean small and medium enterprises, saying many SMEs shopped at Costco for their business supplies.
“This success has allowed Costco to continue to hire more and more Koreans while also creating production jobs in the U.S.,” Kim said.
Kim raised the possibility of making changes to the free trade agreement with Korea.
Kim said the U.S. would be ready to renegotiate the deal if Korea requests it. Some opposition lawmakers have claimed that a dispute settlement mechanism in fact undermines Korea’s legal sovereignty. They also asked the government to insert additional protections for the agriculture sector.
During the same period, Korea’s imports from the U.S. shrank 9 percent to $40 billion due to weak demand for products that did not have their tariffs reduced, the report said.
By Philip Iglauer (email@example.com)