South Korean and US business groups on Thursday held a forum to discuss pending economic issues and cooperative measures amid concerns Washington may become more protectionist going forward, organizers said.
At the gathering arranged by the Federation of Korean Industries and the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, experts and business leaders from the two countries analyzed the Korea-US free-trade agreement as a "reciprocal and win-win" deal.
"The United States and South Korea are going through a transformation phase, especially given that we now have two new presidents in both countries," AMCHAM Chairman James Kim said in the forum.
He said it is up to organizations such as FKI and AMCHAM to "take the lead and champion a mutually beneficial business environment."
FKI Vice Chairman Kwon Tae-shin warned against the spread of protectionism in the US and other major markets, citing a World Trade Organization report on rising protectionist measures in G20 countries. The G20 is a group of 20 nations that represent 85 percent of the global economy.
The number of protectionist steps taken in these leasing economies reached a record 1,263 as of October last year, Kwon said.
The bilateral free trade pact took effect on March 15, 2012, is helping both economies grow, and consumers have benefited from a decline in prices of goods and services, the FKI said in a statement.
Helped by the deal, Korea's gross domestic product is estimated to grow by an additional 0.19 percent and US GDP gained an extra 0.03 percent during the 2012-2016 period compared to the four-year period from 2007-2011, an FKI spokesman said.
During the same period, Korean consumers spent $428 million less on products imported from the US, while their American counterparts spent $511 million less on Korean products, the statement said.
Moreover, Korean investments in the US more than doubled to $18 billion in 2016 from $7 billion in 2012. The US logged $14.38 billion in service exports to South Korea in 2015, up 31 percent from $10.97 billion in 2011, it said.
The FKI and AMCHAM, the business lobbies which represent Korea's big companies and US firms operating in South Korea, respectively, will regularly hold a biannual forum in Seoul to share views on economic issues involving the two countries, the spokesman said.
The topic at the first forum will be about the free-trade agreement between Seoul and Washington as the Trump government threatened to terminate the five-year-old accord in April, citing it "a horrible deal" that has left America "destroyed." (Yonhap)