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Clinton calls Korea-U.S. FTA ‘model agreement’

HONG KONG (Yonhap News) ― U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that the country’s free trade deal with South Korea is a “model agreement” for the world’s largest economy.

The Korea-U.S. FTA, known as KORUS FTA, was signed in 2007 and supplemented last December. It has been awaiting approval from the legislatures of both countries.

“We consider KORUS a model agreement,” Clinton said in a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. She was here to meet with the Hong Kong government’s Chief Executive Donald Tsang and U.S. business people.

Clinton said the bilateral agreement between South Korea and the U.S. will eliminate tariffs on 95 percent of U.S. consumer and industrial exports within five years.

The tariff reduction alone, which is part of the agreement, could increase exports of the U.S. goods by more than $10 billion and help South Korea’s economy grow by 6 percent, she said.

“So whether you are an American manufacturer of machinery or a Korean chemicals exporter this deal lowers the barriers to reaching your customers,” Clinton said

The U.S. State Secretary said the Korea-U.S. FTA will raise the standards for fair competition among the companies based in the two countries, Clinton said.

“This trade deal isn’t simply about who pays what tariffs at our borders. It is a deeper commitment to creating conditions to let both our nations prosper as our companies compete fairly,” she said, adding that the trade deal includes significant improvements on intellectual property, fair labor practices, environmental protection and regulatory due process, she explained.

She also emphasized that benefits of the agreement extend beyond the “economic bottom line.”

“This agreement represents a powerful strategic bet. It signals that America and South Korea are partners for the long term, economically, diplomatically, people-to-people. So for all these reasons, President Obama is pursuing congressional approval of KORUS together with necessary trade adjustment assistance as soon as possible,” Clinton said.

Trade Adjustment Assistance is a U.S. federal program aimed at providing reemployment services to workers who have been adversely impacted by increased imports or by a shift in production or services to another country.

The U.S. Congress has remained locked in political wrangling over the ways to support workers negatively affected by trade.

Democrats are seeking to add the worker assistance program to the implementing bill on the FTA with South Korea, but Republicans oppose the renewal of the budget-gulping Trade Adjustment Assistance program.

“Now we have learned that in our system getting trade deals right is challenging, painstaking work. But it is essential,” Clinton said. 

(Yonhap News)