A Busy Autumn for Korea-U.S. Relations

37557038704_5835b7bea5_oThis fall, the airports in Washington and Seoul have been full of government officials shuttling back and forth between the two capitals. News in the U.S. and Korea has been dominated by stories about the new Korean Ambassador to the United States, Korea-U.S. relations, increasing Korean FDI, economic ties, regional security, and the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA).

Beginning in August, trade representatives from both countries met to discuss KORUS FTA amendment negotiations. In Washington on October 4, Korean officials agreed to beginning amendment negotiations to the free trade agreement. In November, President Trump made an extended visit to Asia with a State Visit to Korea that included a Joint Press Conference with President Moon, an address to the National Assembly, and visits to U.S. military bases.

President Trump’s visit to Korea marked the first official State Visit by a U.S. President in over 30 years. The visit reaffirmed the long friendship between the Korea and the United States. On the first day of President Trump’s visit, a Joint Press Conference was held with President Moon. The Presidents addressed the regional security challenges presented by North Korea, the long-standing alliance between the Korea and the United States and the strengthening economic ties between the two countries.

In remarks to Korea’s National Assembly, President Trump spoke at length of the difficulties presented by the North Korean regime and reiterated that the United States would not tolerate threats made by Pyongyang. He recognized the long and robust friendship between Korea and the United States and their role as allies and trading partners. He spoke about the “Korean Miracle” recovery from World War II and the Korean War, noting that the pace of development in Korea over the last seven decades has been awe-inspiring. President Trump also lauded the Korean people’s resilience, business acumen, high level of education and prowess on the golf course, noting that many of the top golfers on the men’s and women’s circuit are of Korean heritage.

President Trump’s praise of the Korean Miracle is well founded, as is his tribute to the Korean economy and workforce. Korea’s high-tech, service-based economy, is quickly becoming a technology powerhouse and a global tastemaker. The country is a foreign investment success story, becoming the first recipient of OECD Development Assistance Committee funds to later become a donor of those funds. Korea has experienced steady growth since the 1960s and the country is now the world’s sixth-largest exporter and 12th-largest economy overall. This careful crafting of the Korean economy now translates into a robust marketplace with both retail sales and industrial production up on a month-on-month basis and an unemployment rate at a low 3.4 percent.

The success of the Korean economy and Korean businesses has also helped propel Korean foreign direct investment (FDI). The United States is a top destination for Korean investment, creating  over 52,000 high-wage U.S. jobs. At the end of President Trump’s visit, 42 Korean companies unveiled plans to invest a combined $17.3 billion in the United States over the next four years. An additional 24 Korean firms announced that they would purchase $57.5 billion worth of U.S. products and services between now and 2021, a prospect that is strengthened by the KORUS FTA.

As 2017 and a busy autumn comes to a close, it is clear that the economic relationship and strategic alliance between the United States and Korea is as important and strong as ever. The U.S. Korea Connect team wishes you a happy holiday season and much success in 2018!

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