appear to be close to starting negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) that could be one of
the largest with a single country — second only to the three-nations in the North American Free
Trade Agreement. Two-way trade between the United States and South Korea amounts to more than $70
billion, making South Korea the United States’ seventh largest trading partner. The United States
currently imports $1.7 billion in textiles and apparel and exports $1.5 billion worth fo goods.
While the Bush administration has negotiated 13 free trade agreements and has at least
another half a dozen in various stages of negotiation, most of them involve small countries. An FTA
with South Korea would be a major development for US international trade.
In a recent meeting with reporters, US Trade Representative Rob Portman cited South Korea as
an example of how trade can be a significant factor in helping a country become a booming economy.
Portman said: “After the Korean War, the North Korean economy was stronger than South Korea. In the
interim, North Korea has closed down to trade, taken a self-sufficiency point of view as South
Korea has done just the opposite, They’ve opened up to trade. The beneficiaries have been the
citizens of the Republic of Korea. It’s an amazing story to go from a truly poor developing country
to a country which is now one of the stronger economies in the world.”
A South Korean FTA could be in for some rough sledding. South Korean farmers do not like the
idea, and the latest US FTA — the Central American Free Trade Agreement —barely squeaked through
January 31, 2006