Friday, September 3, 2010

South Korean Ambassador Tours Tacoma Port, Talks Trade Deal

South Korean Ambassador to the United States Han Duk-soo toured several maritime facilities at the Port of Tacoma Tuesday.

Han's visit, arranged through the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber and US Chamber of Commerce, was also an opportunity for the ambassador to drum up support for ratification of the Republic of Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement, also known as the KORUS FTA.

Negotiations on the agreement began in February, 2006 and were completed in April, 2007. The treaty was signed by President George Bush on June 30, 2007 but has yet to be ratified by the US Congress.

If ratified, the agreement would lift roughly 85 percent of each nation's tariffs on industrial goods, and also create new protections for multinational financial services and other firms. The agreement would also, if ratified, become the first free trade agreement between the United States and a major Asian economy.

In June, President Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak gave a November 2010 deadline for the two governments to resolve any outstanding issues regarding the agreement.

Last year, the Port of Tacoma handled more than $2.5 billion worth of Korean-related trade.

US imports of Korean goods totaled $22.5 billion in the first half of the year, a 35 percent increase over the same period last year. US exports to Korea totaled $20.4 billion in the first six months of the year, a 40 percent increase over the same period last year.

Korea, the third largest international trading partner with the United States, is also one of the largest export markets for US agricultural products.

The KORUS FTA would add $10 billion to $12 billion a year to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product, according to estimates by the US International Trade Commission. The commission also estimated that the agreement, if ratified, would increase annual US exports to Korea by $10 billion.