It may be premature right now to talk about post–free trade agreement (FTA) relations between the United States and Korea. The U.S.-Korea FTA still has some way to go before it becomes a reality. One of the biggest hurdles in the immediate future is to ensure its ratification by both the Korean National Assembly and the U.S. Congress.
But the present cannot be separated from the future. Legislators and the public in both countries are not likely to throw their weight behind the U.S.-Korea FTA (KORUSFTA) unless they know, and are convinced, of the future the trade agreement will deliver.
Both sides also have to ensure that they do not become complacent after the KORUSFTA is signed into law. After all, managing a bilateral economic relationship is a lot like riding a bicycle. If you do not keep pedaling, the bicycle will stop and you run the risk of being thrown off course. Similarly, in the absence of a strong post-FTA vision, U.S.-Korea economic relations are likely to recede in importance or, worse, be relegated to the back burner.
Hence, it is important to begin post-FTA discussions. The debate will include not only reassessments of economic relations in both Seoul and Washington, but also the overall goals of the U.S.-Korea alliance. I contend that the new goal of U.S.-ROK economic relations should be to support a new “comprehensive alliance” between United States and Korea. I also argue that under the comprehensive alliance, the two countries should aim at “cultural integration,” which is the highest possible level of economic integration without political integration.