South Korea Free Trade Agreement A Jolt To Technology - InformationWeek

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4/3/2007
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South Korea Free Trade Agreement A Jolt To Technology

An industry group suggests the pact will increase the $12.7 billion worth of electronic products U.S. companies sent to South Korea in each of the past few years.

The elimination of trade tariffs between the United States and South Korea is expected to broaden markets for the electronics and technology industries.

The two countries finalized the details of the Korea Free Trade Agreement after 10 months of negotiations on Monday. The pact includes agricultural categories such as American beef and Korean rice but also covers automobile products and consumer electronics. U.S. exports averaged $12.7 billion worth of electronic products to South Korea annually from 2004 to 2006, according to the Electronic Industries Alliance.

Workers and manufacturers will reap the benefits of free trade, according to EIA, which represents almost 1,300 companies that produce goods ranging from small electronic components to defense and space industry systems.

The EIA praised both governments Monday for coming together to boost trade.

"Robust international commerce is critical to our industry," said Charlie Robinson, EIA interim president and CEO, in a prepared statement. "American technology companies, and the workers they employ, will benefit from this pact. South Korea is our seventh-largest trading partner and that relationship will only grow stronger as a result of this agreement."

Robinson also praised U.S. negotiators for progress on a new trade agreement with Panama.

Several Democrats and Republicans in Congress have vowed to reject the trade agreement because it failed to lift South Korea's ban on U.S. beef and provide assurances for other industries. House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Sander Levin, a Michigan Democrat, is among them.

"Congress has made clear that a FTA with Korea had to do away with its iron economic curtain against U.S. agricultural and industrial products, especially automotive, which represents 82% of the $13.4 billion U.S. trade deficit with Korea," Levin said in a prepared statement. "In automotive, the Koreans got what they wanted, immediate elimination of the U.S. tariff on most autos and on all auto parts, as well as eventual elimination of the tariff on trucks. The U.S. did not get what was needed -- an agreement that assures that the U.S. automotive industry will no longer face the barriers to their products."

Levin said Korea exports 700,000 vehicles to the United States annually while American companies sell less than 5,000 vehicles there.

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