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Korean trade official says free trade agreement benefits both U.S. and Korea

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on Oct. 24, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
October 24, 2012 3:18 pm

An historic free trade agreement between South Korea and the United States first implemented seven months ago shows great promise for Washington state and the country, a Korean trade official said today.

Gheewhan Kim, minister for Economic Affairs at the Korean Embassy, said the long-negotiated agreement was a “win-win” for both countries.

The deal, first negotiated more than seven years ago, but later rewritten before both countries ratified it, reduces tariffs on 95 percent of U.S. goods exported to Korean within five years.

As a major gateway to trade between the two countries, said Kim, Washington is already seeing the benefits of freer trade.

Kim and a delegation of Korean trade officials were in Tacoma and Seattle this week to talk with local port, trade and business officials about the effects of the agreement.

Korea is the third largest trading partner for the Port of Tacoma.

Washington agricultural and aerospace products are the top exports from the Evergreen State to Korea.

Tariff reductions included in the trade pact should enhance those exports, said Kim. Tariffs on fresh cherries, for instance, which were 24 percent, are being eliminated.

Duties on frozen potatoes, once 18 percent, are being reduced, and tariffs on wine, formerly 15 percent, are being cut.

All three agricultural products are major Washington exports.

Apples, which bear a 45 percent tariff, are seeing a stepped reduction over a 10-year period.

Under the trade agreement, barriers to the import of more U.S. beef are falling, said Kim. In the last two months, he said, the U.S. has become the largest importer of beef to Korea surpassing Australia.

And U.S. autos are gaining a larger share of the Korean market, though the U.S. share of the Korean auto market, however, remains a fraction of the Korean share of the U.S. market.

And reductions in the barriers to American services are improving the trade balance between the two countries, he said.

The two countries are talking about widening the free trade discussion to allow more Korean professionals educated in the U.S. to remain here to work for U.S. companies.

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