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2012 big year for Korea-U.S. business

AMCHAM chief says delegations from 22 U.S. states will visit Korea for trade

With the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement to take effect soon, the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea is gearing up for a busy year promoting the trade pact.

High on the list are visits by delegations from 22 U.S. states looking to find partnerships and gain a better understanding of the trade deal.

“The federal government gave grants to increase exports. Twenty-two states are coming to Korea, that shows how important the perception of Korea as a market is,” AMCHAM president Amy Jackson told The Korea Herald.

Once the historic trade deal goes into effect, she believes it will enhance the longstanding partnership between the United States and Korea, and bring important economic benefits and opportunities to businesses, farmers and workers by immediately opening access for goods and services in both countries.

Jackson hopes that the KORUS FTA, which was ratified by the two countries last year, will come into effect during the first quarter of this year.

“We have a lot of things to do to ensure that people, both American and Korean companies, take full advantage by understanding the provisions of the FTA and also how to take advantage of them,” she said.
AMCHAM president Amy Jackson speaks about U.S.-Korea economic relations. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
AMCHAM president Amy Jackson speaks about U.S.-Korea economic relations. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)

Besides hosting a number of business and government delegations, the chamber will also host seminars, lectures and other events to share the possibilities now available because of the trade deal.

Working together

The International Trade Commission, a U.S. independent agency that provides trade expertise to the U.S. government, estimates that the deal will increase U.S. GDP by $10-12 billion.

“We will work with the Korean government to host an FTA information and utilization seminar that will be open to American and Korean companies, and make sure to target crosscutting issues, but also certain sectors that will illustrate what’s in the FTA for them and how to use it in both communities,” she said.

The 30 committees within the chamber will also help publicize the agreement. These committees cover a range of sectors such as automotive, pharmaceutical, aerospace, taxation and human resources.

“Some of those committees will be weaving FTA topics into their periodic meetings as well,” Jackson said.

The American Chamber has about 2,000 members from around 1,000 companies. Most are U.S.-based enterprises, but a growing number are Korean companies that conduct business in the United States.

Plus there are several European companies that have a big footprint in the United States, Korea and back on their home continent.

“The economic forecast for the United States and Korea is not as rosy as we would like it to be. So that makes the FTA implementation even more imperative. There are significant gains to be gotten on both sides,” Jackson said.

Advantages for both

For Korea, the trade pact is forecast to boost its gross domestic product by 5.6 percent and create 350,000 jobs in the 10 years after the deal comes into force.

“I think it’s unfortunate that there’s been a lot of negative feelings in Korea about the FTA, but I hope that the Korean people and companies can pull together and see that there is a new opportunity in front of us.

“I have been reading articles about how some of the local provinces are going to use the FTA to promote their local products. That’s what we should all be focusing on and encouraging,” she said.

On the other hand, for the United States, the deal will usher in a new era for U.S. economic engagement with East Asia.

Besides an increase of goods traded, the deal will counterbalance Korea’s growing trade ties with China, potentially allowing the U.S. to regain its position as Seoul’s preeminent trade partner.

“As an American citizen, I feel that it is very important that the United States be very present in Asia,” Jackson said. “Asia is where the economic growth is, a lot of the geopolitical problems are here, a lot of opportunities are here.”

At the forefront of change

As more and more U.S. companies enter the Korean marketplace, Jackson says they will add to the complaints that not enough time is allowed to adjust to changes in Korean rules and regulations.

“One of the biggest complaints many AMCHAM members have, and it applies doubly to new entrants, is that rules and regulations change too often without adequate notice, so one day you are selling a good and then next you find out through reading in the newspaper that a component in that product is not allowed in Korea as of today,” she noted.

Jackson explained that the chamber is working on the situation and has found that some ministries are receptive to the suggestions while others seem to be lagging behind.

“That’s a big part of the EU-Korea and KORUS FTAs. Hopefully working together we will bring some meaningful changes to that area quite quickly,” she said.

By Yoav Cerralbo (