March 15th marked the two-year anniversary of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement’s (KORUS FTA) entry into force and the facts are clear. Despite what some trade critics say, exports of U.S. manufactured goods to Korea have increased. Thanks to KORUS, more than 95 percent of U.S. industrial and consumer goods are entering the Korean market duty-free, and as a result, exports of U.S. manufactured goods to Korea have gone up 3.1 percent or $1 billion since the agreement was implemented. Specifically, exports of electrical equipment, appliances and other components jumped 22.5 percent and exports of pharmaceuticals experienced a huge increase of 52 percent! Moreover, U.S. manufactured goods saw an increase in exports to Korea of 9.2% from January 2013 to January 2014, while manufactured goods exports from Korea to the U.S. only increased 3.1 percent.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Office released a fact sheet on the enhanced opportunities the KORUS agreement has created over the last two years. “In its second year, this landmark agreement continues to provide tangible benefits for American businesses, workers, and farmers exporting to our sixth-largest trading partner,” USTR stated. As USTR notes, the overall U.S.-Korea trade balance has been negatively impacted by decreases in corn and fossil fuel exports due to the U.S. drought in 2012, but those events are unrelated to the agreement’s implementation. USTR also noted slowed economic growth in Korea over the past two years was associated with decreased demand for all of its imports – not just those from the United States. In addition, the European Union’s free trade agreement with Korea entered into in July 2011, so it is likely that manufacturers in the EU had the advantage of moving their products into Korea’s market first. As the global economy continues to improve, we hope to see even stronger U.S. exports to Korea.
At the same time, the NAM is working closely with our members, USTR and the Korean government to resolve some key issues with KORUS implementation including customs issues for certain U.S. exports to Korea and an array of non-tariff barriers, especially in the auto sector, which greatly impede manufacturers’ access to the Korean market. Last week, Korean ambassador to the United States Ahn Ho-young expressed a commitment to addressing any outstanding issues with implementation of the KORUS agreement. It is critical that Korea remain focused on resolving these challenges and that the Korean government continue working with the U.S. government to respond to market access concerns from manufacturers in the United States – especially if it is serious about seeking accession to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.
Additionally, more work needs to be done to ensure that manufacturers in the United States are aware of the new export opportunities in Korea resulting from the KORUS FTA. Manufacturers can visit FTA Tariff Tool to determine tariff levels for their exports to Korea.
While it’s still too early to determine the full impact of KORUS on U.S. manufactured goods exports, a closer look at the numbers reveal that they are headed in the right direction, and manufacturers believe that continued cooperation with Korea will only strengthen our economic ties and expand the benefits of the KORUS agreement.