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U.S.-Korea Economic Relations: A Washington Perspective

On 30 June 2007, United States Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab and Republic of Korea Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong signed the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA), an encompassing economic deal with broad implications for the U.S.-ROK alliance and U.S. engagement in Asia. Noting the occasion, President Bush issued a statement highlighting these dual roles: On the economic front, the president said, the KORUS FTA will promote growth by “generat(ing) export opportunities for U.S. farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and service suppliers.” Stressing its geopolitical significance, President Bush affirmed that the “agreement will also further enhance the strong United States-Korea partnership, which has served as a force for stability and prosperity in Asia.”

It was only through the immense efforts of both governments that signature of the FTA was successfully achieved. With the expiration of President Bush’s Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) looming as a firm deadline at the end of April 2007, teams of negotiators met regularly over a 10-month period. As expected, challenges arose in a range of sensitive sectors, and the process was not without controversy and setbacks. To their credit, the U.S. and Korean negotiators both recognized that, while neither side would get 100 percent of what it sought, achieving consensus on a comprehensive, high-quality agreement would ultimately benefit both countries.

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