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Summary of Proceedings
Author: Bernard K. Gordon
Region: Asia
Theme: Economics
Published May 25, 2011
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In important respects this conference reflected two somewhat contrasting perspectives on the just completed U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA). Those two perspectives, the one dealing principally with specifically economic aspects of the agreement and the other with broader questions of multilateral vs. bilateral efforts, were not immediately evident at the outset of the meeting, but they began to emerge at a midpoint in the conference’s three-section agenda.

The first section of the conference was devoted to a KEI special study, Economic Effects of a Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, written by Robert M. Stern and Kozo Kiyota. Professor Stern presented the paper, and its two discussants were Jeffrey Schott and Won W. Koo. Their comments, along with comments from other conference participants, adhered closely to subjects implied by the paper’s title.

The conference’s second agenda section, devoted to the dynamic effects of a free trade agreement (FTA), focused on the paper, “The Payoff to South Korea from Globalization,” by Gary Hufbauer and Agustín Cornejo. It was presented by Dr. Hufbauer and, likewise, followed closely the agenda title. Its discussant was Professor Anne Krueger, and it was at a point in her remarks that the conference’s second perspective was introduced.

The third agenda topic was the scope for dynamic effects in Korea’s economy, and it heard three papers. The first, by Arthur Alexander, likewise adhered to the conference’s designated theme: it focused on issues of foreign direct investment (FDI), principally but not exclusively in connection with Korea. The second paper, however, by Sungjoon Cho, built directly on and fully opened the conference’s second perspective. His paper, “Is a Free Trade Agreement a Royal Road to Prosperity? Demystifying Trade Regionalism,” put into sharp focus the question of whether bilateral or regional approaches to trade liberalization, exemplified by the KORUS FTA, are to be preferred to the global or multilateral approaches exemplified by the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Development Round. The final conference paper, “Regional Integration and a Free Trade Agreement among China, Japan, and Korea,” continued with that second conference perspective. It was prepared by Professor Kang Hee-joon and in his absence was presented by Professor Yong Kim.

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