As the world’s eyes once again turn to Detroit, the champion of America’s car industry, the US and South Korea are re-opening major negotiations toward improving trade and investment in Michigan. This past May, Mr. Han-Koo Yeo, Minister-Counselor of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) at the Korean Embassy in Washington, DC met with representatives of Michigan’s business community as well as its federal, state and local governments to discuss ongoing efforts to maintain strong business collaboration and investment opportunities between the US and South Korea.

South Korea remains one of Detroit’s most visible and fastest growing investor communities. This past spring, General Motors announced that it would set up its Asia-Pacific HQ in Seoul, boosting procurement from about 2 trillion won ($1.85 billion) a year. The recent visit from MOTIE to Michigan, however, foreshadows a much larger potential for bilateral business on the horizon.

A major incentive for Korea’s attention to Michigan this spring was to engage in the 2018 US Korea Business Summit. Minister-Counselor Yeo was a key speaker at the event, where he discussed the exciting new growth in trade and economic cooperation between the US and Korea, as well as the national attention to Michigan’s booming auto industry.

Mr. Han-Koo Yeo, Minister-Counselor for Korean Embassy in the U.S., speaking on the benefits of US-Korea FTA and its potential at the 2018 US Korea Business Summit in Detroit.

Held in the center for the US automobile industry, the US Korea Business Summit focused on the future of the global automotive industry—one that is driven by connected, autonomous, shared, and electric-based technologies (CASE), as well as aerospace industry trends. The annual summit provides an unparalleled opportunity to bring thought leaders together and share insights about the future of the automotive and aerospace industries. There is strong interest on all sides in keeping auto trade imbalances from increasing during the ongoing KORUS FTA revisions. Through negotiations for modifications, US and Korea reached an agreement in principle in March 2018, with key changes made in the automotive provisions to improve market access for US automobiles in Korea. Now, with stronger ties with one of the most important allies and key trading partner (Korea ranks #2 right behind Germany for market share), there is a higher potential, especially the automotive industry, for US trade and national security relationship.

The Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, and the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association hosted the Summit to explore foreign market opportunities, diversify foreign and domestic Korean goods, and create new job horizons for both the US and Korea. KOTRA came to the Summit during a time of industrial and financial challenges for Korea, with intensifying global competition in key Korean industries and export markets, but believes that 2018 continues to show tremendous promise for the Korean economy.

The Korean Embassy’s visit to Michigan provided a chance for officials to gain insight into new and existing investment opportunities between the US and Korea. With so much mutual benefit ripe for the taking, representatives from MOTIE, federal and state governments, and private businesses cultivated new relationships and reinforced long-standing ones. Reliable bilateral partnerships will continually drive business collaboration, leading to shared Korean-US achievements.

*Featured in headline image: Dimitar P. Filev, Technical Fellow at Control & AI, Ford Research & Innovation Center, Hankoo Yeo, Minister Counselor for Korean Embassy in the US, John Robb, Director of North American Electronic Systems Development Hyundai American Technical Center, Mike A. Jackson, Executive Director Strategy and Research OESA, Denise Gray, President and CEO of LG Chem Power Inc., Jong-Kook Lee, Consul General of Korean Consulate General in Chicago