This year's annual Asia and Pacific
Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in
Hanoi, Vietnam, presents a unique opportunity for both President
Bush and South Korea's President Roh to solidify their partnership.
The meeting should generate positive momentum for ongoing free
trade agreement (FTA) negotiations between the two countries.
By renewing and
reaffirming their support for and commitment to the Korea-U.S.
(KORUS) FTA, the two leaders should capitalize on the
November 18 and 19 APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting as a special
opportunity to reinforce their economic and strategic
Back to Basics: Why a KORUS FTA?
The United States and South Korea have more in
common today than ever before in a relationship that has endured
for more than 50 years. This special friendship includes shared
values of open markets, free trade, respect for the rule of law,
and democratic principles. In fact, South Korea remains one
of the U.S.'s most important allies, and the values and goals
shared by the two countries far outweigh their points of
disagreement. As South Korea has
developed into one of Asia's most vibrant market-oriented
democracies, its economic relationship with America has steadily
grown stronger and become one of the most important pillars
supporting the alliance.
which is about the size of Indiana, generates almost one trillion
dollars and imports about $250 billion worth of goods every year.
Trade with the U.S. exceeded more than $70 billion in 2005, making
South Korea the U.S.'s seventh largest trading partner. Many major American companies have
established a substantial presence in South Korea-their direct
investment has totaled nearly $30 billion over the past decade.
Given the significant levels of trade and foreign investment
between the U.S. and South Korea, a bilateral trade agreement is
logical step for further strengthening economic relations between
the two dynamic and competitive partners.
The KORUS FTA would go beyond promoting free
trade, increasing economic benefits, and bolstering the broader
bilateral relationship. Agreement and cooperation on economic
issues provide a strong basis from which to reinforce collaboration
in the political and security arenas. An FTA would undoubtedly
reinvigorate and strengthen the dynamic and comprehensive
U.S.-South Korea partnership, the cornerstone of peace and
stability in Northeast Asia for more than five decades.
Steady Progress in the KORUS FTA
In February 2006,
South Korea and the U.S. announced their mutual desire to begin
negotiating a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA). After four
rounds of negotiations, the two longtime allies have made steady
progress toward an agreement that will enhance both countries'
economic freedom and prosperity while strengthening the
partnership. Wendy Cutler, the U.S. chief negotiator for the FTA,
noted "a big step forward from the previous round" at the
conclusion of the fourth round of the FTA talks.
"Overall, the discussions have moved forward, and we now have
agreement on the general concepts of various provisions and are in
a good position to start tightening key aspects of the text," she
such as remanufactured goods, customs administrations, and the
financial sector negotiations, have seen more progress than other
issues. For instance, the talks produced no
breakthroughs in key areas including agricultural products,
textiles, and automobiles.
challenges to the negotiations are an expected and constructive
part of solving policy issues through trade talks. Maintaining
strong momentum is critical for completing the negotiations within
an ambitious time frame. Both sides hope to sign a deal before
President Bush's Trade Promotion Authority expires on July 1, 2007.
The fifth iteration of the KORUS FTA negotiations will begin in
Montana on December 4, and an additional round is tentatively
scheduled for early next year.
partnership cemented by advancing the KORUS FTA negotiations makes
sense for both countries. Solid progress would augment the
bilateral and regional strength of the two countries. Accordingly,
a successful conclusion of negotiations would serve the national
interests of both South Korea and the U.S. by strengthening their
strategic and economic alliance.
America and South
Korea should capitalize on the KORUS FTA as a special opportunity
for both countries to reinforce the strategic and economic
alliance. The APEC meeting should serve as a positive venue for
mutual understanding and serve the national interests of both
countries. The meeting should provide momentum that would allow the
U.S. and South Korea to come closer to concluding the FTA and begin
earning the solid, tangible benefits it will provide.
is Research Associate in the Center for International Trade and
Economics at The Heritage Foundation.