On a day when the White House and Congressional Republicans struck a deal to advance the long-delayed Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA), Korea’s ambassador to the United States told Massachusetts CEOs that the pact will boost the economy, add jobs, reduce business costs and increase trade.
Ambassador Han Duk-Soo told a gathering co-sponsored by AIM that “people can make a difference” in building support for the free trade agreement between the United States and its ninth largest trading partner.
The Obama administration announced late Tuesday that it had reached agreement with House Republicans to reinstate benefits for workers who lose jobs to foreign competition. The deal addresses a major obstacle to consideration of free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.
Observers say ratification is still not assured because Republicans may attempt to separate the vote on the benefits issue from approval of the larger trade deals.
Debate over the agreements is taking place as Korea prepares to sign a free trade agreement with the European Union on July 1, putting American companies at a disadvantage when competing for business.
Massachusetts Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown both support the Korea Free Trade Agreement, which has been pending since 2007. The position of the Massachusetts House delegation is less certain.
Han’s visit to Boston included a plant tour at Raytheon in Andover, where more than 4,000 employees manufacture defense products that are sold to Korea, among other countries. Han emphasized the benefits of the Korea Free Trade Agreement to Massachusetts companies, including:
- Nearly $900 million in Massachusetts-manufactured products were exported to Korea in 2010.
- 80 percent of tariffs paid by Massachusetts companies will disappear immediately under the FTA; 95 percent of tariffs will be gone in five years.
- Massachusetts companies such as Acushnet, EMD and Millipore that do significant business in Korea will save millions of dollars.
- New jobs will be created
- Growth opportunities will become available for both manufacturers and service industries.
- The agreement enjoys nearly universal support from businesses, unions and both political parties.
- It solidifies US geopolitical influence in Asia.
- FTA contains strong protection for intellectual property and software.
- Korea and the US maintain balanced trade relationship, unlike the relationship between the US and China.
The ambassador urged business people to ask their members of Congress to support the agreement. Employers may join the pro-FTA business coalition at www.uskoreafta.org