Five years into effect, Korea-US FTA helps both: report

Contrary to what many in the United States may believe, the country’s bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea has been mutually beneficial, if not more so for the United States, since its enactment five years earlier, a report suggested Thursday.

According to the report from the Institute for International Trade (IIT), the combined share of American products in South Korea’s import market came to 10.64 percent last year, up 2.14 percentage points from 8.5 percent in 2011, a year before the Korea-U.S. FTA went into effect.

The 2016 reading also marked the highest in 10 years, the report noted.

The combined market share of South Korean goods in the U.S., on the other hand, advanced only 0.62 percentage point over the cited period to 3.19 percent in 2016, it added. The IIT is a private think tank run by the Korea International Trade Association, the largest trade organization here.

The report noted the FTA may have also helped the countries’ overall exports grow, while those of other countries shrank.

Over the 2012-2016 period, global trade dropped by an average 2 percent per year. South Korea’s overall trade also slipped by an average 3.5 percent per year over the cited period.

However, bilateral trade between South Korea and the United States grew an average 1.7 percent per year over the five-year period, according to the report.

“South Korea and the United States appear to have achieved a win-win outcome where their market shares in the other country increased at the same time based on the Korea-U.S. FTA, despite worsening external conditions, such as a slowdown in global trade,” it said.

Among the largest winners under the bilateral free trade pact were U.S. automakers, whose combined market share in South Korea jumped an average 37.3 percent a year over the past five years to reach 18.1 percent in 2016, up 8.5 percentage points from 2011.

U.S. shipments of pharmaceutical products, including drugs, to South Korea also spiked by an average 12.9 percent per year over the 2012-2016 period following the removal of Seoul’s 8 percent import tariff under the Korea-U.S. FTA, according to the report.

The report follows repeated remarks from the new Donald Trump administration hinting at a possible renegotiation of the United States’ major free trade deals, including the Korea-U.S. FTA.

“Since its implementation five years earlier, the two countries have enjoyed mutual benefits of the Korea-U.S. FTA,” it said. “They must continue to work together to further expand their use and benefits of the FTA, and to make sure that trade between the two countries will continue to remain balanced and equally beneficial.” (Yonhap)

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