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Kerry, Lugar Urge Administration To Move Forward On The U.S.-Korean Trade Agreement

Washington, D.C.---Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) and Ranking Member Dick Lugar (R-IN) today sent a letter to the Administration calling for the timely resolution of outstanding issues related to theU.S.-South Korean trade agreement.  Senators Kerry and Lugar argue that it is in the best economic and strategic interest of the United States to strengthen ties with its allies. 

“The United States should work with South Korea to resolve legitimate concerns and quickly approve the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement.  This step could be a significant part of the President’s goal of doubling U.S. exports over the next five years to create well-paying American jobs,” said Chairman Kerry.  “South Korea ranks among our very closest allies and partners. When Seoul hosts the G-20 meeting this November, I hope the United States can point to substantial progress on KORUS as part of a broader U.S. engagement with the Asia-Pacific region.”

“Improving trade is critical to meeting our economic and diplomatic challenges around the globe. South Korea is an important country and economy. Approval of this agreement will lead to greater opportunities,” said Ranking Member Lugar, who has been a long-time advocate of the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement.

The full text of the letter is below:

May 10, 2010

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC  20500

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to express our support for the timely resolution of outstanding issues related to the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) and for its submission to Congress as soon as possible.  Such action would send a powerful signal in support of opening new markets during South Korea’s chairmanship of the G-20.

While an overall national consensus on trade issues remains elusive, the KORUS FTA merits our prompt consideration.  The KORUS FTA contains the highest standards to date on labor and environmental concerns, and Korea has a strong record in both these areas.  The scope of the agreement and the size of both our economies – the world’s largest and 14th largest in terms of GDP, respectively – are significant enough to create thousands of well-paying jobs and help generate billions in wealth for both countries.   The U.S. International Trade Commission estimated in September 2007 that U.S. merchandise exports to Korea would increase by $10-12 billion annually as a result of the KORUS FTA and that services exports would expand.  The potential for innovation through competition and collaboration is also immense.

Through inaction, the United States will cede Korea’s vast markets to other countries, a luxury that we cannot afford.  In 2004, China displaced the United States as Korea’s number one trading partner.  Recently, the European Union and India signed agreements with South Korea to lower trade barriers.  As these countries effectively gain preferential access compared to American products, the United States risks missing significant opportunities, while other countries’ economies grow and create jobs from trade expansion.

Submission of the agreement to Congress also would be considered a significant show of solidarity with a close and reliable ally.  Korea, with its vibrant democracy, open markets, high-tech economy, well-educated people, and ever-expanding people-to-people ties with the United States, is a remarkable success story.  That success reflects a common commitment to defense, U.S. assistance since the Korean War to help develop Korea’s economy, and our close diplomatic cooperation to achieve a nuclear-weapons free North Korea and a safe, prosperous future for the region.  Korea hosts the only substantial U.S. troop presence in mainland East Asia, and it increasingly has the capability and will to make significant contributions to regional and global issues that implicate U.S. security, economic, and human rights concerns.

Finally, renewed interest in the KORUS FTA could provide a strong incentive for our friends in Korea to redouble their cooperation in addressing pending trade-related impediments that significantly affect the United States.  As you know, the Korean government has not yet ensured that U.S. beef exporters have access to Korea’s markets in accordance with international standards, and Korea’s history of non-tariff barriers to its automotive sector also raises serious concerns.  A renewed commitment to move on the KORUS FTA will create an atmosphere more conducive to resolution of these issues. 

We stand ready to work with you and our colleagues to bring these issues to a prompt resolution.


Richard Lugar                     John Kerry
Ranking Member                Chairman

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