In Korea, an Approaching and Crucial Deadline for Trade

By October 15, 2010Trade

Doug Goudie, Director of International Trade Policy for the National Association of Manufacturers, has been reporting from a business and trade mission to South Korea.

This will be my last blog from Korea, as we are completing our final day of meetings. It will not be my last blog ON Korea, however – I will be doing a “macro” kind of blog next week on what we might expect leading up to the crucial KORUS FTA deadline of the G20 meeting in Seoul on Nov. 11-12.

I say “deadline” because, really, it is a very important date set by President Obama. Mr. Obama, at the G20 in Toronto in June 2010, announced he was instructing his negotiators to resolve outstanding auto and beef issues with their Korean counterparts. Mr. Obama noted he wanted this done by the Seoul G20 summit so that when he and President Lee meet there, they can conclude the KORUS and declare it final, and President Obama can then send the completed agreement to Congress for approval in the months that follow.

This is key: While not every “i” needs to be dotted and “t” crossed by the end of G20 on KORUS, if there is no agreement and announcement on resolution of autos and beef, it means the KORUS agreement is in trouble, timing-wise. It means a crucial deadline has been missed. If you want an example of what happens when negotiators miss deadlines, take a gander at the last 10 years of the WTO Doha Round.

That’s an extreme example of course — well, we’ve waited over 3 years on KORUS already — but the G20 deadline is key because it will involve the two Presidents, who agreed to this back in June. Their personal involvement will be crucial to achieving a successful resolution. If they cannot, it is doubtful we’ll see agreement soon, and that could impact Congressional movement on KORUS next year.

After our myriad meetings this week, I continue to be confident that there will be agreement on the outstanding provisions and an announcement at the G20 on KORUS, which clears the way for Congressional approval before mid-year 2011.

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