On March 15, the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) celebrated its fifth anniversary. Over the past five years, the alliance between our two nations has grown stronger thanks to balanced, bilateral trade, and growing ties between our economies. The KORUS FTA has further opened the Korean market to U.S. goods and services by increasing protections on intellectual property, removing regulations and licensing requirements and reducing or eliminating most tariffs on U.S. products. When the FTA went into force, 80 percent of U.S. exports to Korea of consumer and industrial products became duty free immediately. Today, five years later, nearly 95 percent of bilateral trade in consumer and industrial products are duty free and most remaining tariffs will be eliminated by March 15, 2022.
By all measures, the KORUS FTA is a well-crafted, high-quality free trade agreement and has been wildly successful when the full picture of trade – goods, services and investment – is considered. Total U.S. trade with Korea topped $150 billion in 2015. U.S. services exports to Korea continue to be a strong area of growth, up 34.1 percent to an estimated $22.4 billion in 2015, compared to $16.7 billion in 2011. Trade with Korea supports 358,000 U.S. jobs, an increase of 87,000 between 2009 and 2015
Additionally, the strong ties between the two nations make the U.S. an attractive location for Korean FDI. In 2015 alone, Korean-owned companies invested $40.2 billion in the United States, making Korea one of the largest and fastest growing sources of FDI. Korean firms come to the United States to take advantage of the U.S.’ highly skilled workforce, to be closer to their end markets, and to take advantage of the free trade agreements the U.S. has negotiated with other countries. Korean-owned companies like Lotte Chemical, Hankook Tire, Hyundai, Kia, Samsung, and Wells Lighting have built plants in the United States to supply established industries here and to be closer to their end markets.
For the U.S. and Korea, as well as the global economy, the KORUS FTA is a model free trade agreement. It sets a high standard which other free trade agreements should strive to meet and promotes a level playing field in global trade.