While the National Association of Manufacturers is disappointed that President Obama and Korean President Lee were unable to close out the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement negotiations this week, we fully support their efforts. The KORUS FTA would be the largest bilateral U.S. trade deal since NAFTA, and it matters to U.S. manufacturers. The agreement eliminates tariffs on 95 percent of consumer and industrial products between the countries within three years, opening up the world’s seventh largest economy. But the NAM has said from the day the agreement was signed that the U.S. auto industry believes there has to be more market access in Korea, particularly by reducing non-tariff barriers. We sincerely hope that when the U.S. and Korean trade negotiators meet again, that they will achieve that market access so that the United States can begin receiving the benefits of free trade that our competitors are about to receive. The stakes are getting higher.
In just the past week, the United States’ two largest trading partners have announced aggressive trade policies to ensure that their exporters have new access to world markets and keep their economies competitive. Meanwhile, the United States continues to debate whether to take Korea, Colombia and Panama’s offers to eliminate for American exporters their tariffs and other trade barriers. Both Japan and the EU have free trade agreements with these countries already or are proposing to negotiate them.
Japan has long remained in the shadows of international economic leadership because of its inward looking agriculture policies, but the Japanese government announced this week that it will press ahead with fundamental domestic reforms in order to implement comprehensive free trade agreements. It said it will put all goods on the table in trade negotiations. It is going to resume free trade negotiations with Korea. At the same time, Japan will be seeking a China-Japan-Korea FTA and an East Asian Free Trade Agreement (EAFTA). Unlike the United States, Japan also wants to speed up a study of a possible agreement with the European Union.
On the other side of the world, European Commission on Nov. 9 announced a trade policy to help revitalize Europe’s economy. (continue reading…)