For the past 20 years, Korea has been going through a sort of film “renaissance” after experiencing a golden age in the 1960s and 70s.
My Voice: Free Trade with South Korea benefits South Dakota
Over the past five years, the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement has facilitated freer and fairer trade between two of the world’s largest economies.
U.S. manufacturers are now empowered to sell their products into Korea, which is our sixth-largest trading partner. Korean businesses have in turn invested billions of dollars into the U.S., where they have helped to support or create thousands of jobs.
As a manufacturer who produces products here in South Dakota, but sells them all over the world, I understand the importance of being able to freely sell our products into international markets. It would be a mistake to abandon this important trade agreement, and the closer economic and diplomatic relationships between the U.S. and South Korea that have come with it.
The agreement – which is sometimes known as “KORUS” or “KORUS FTA” – has reduced or eliminated tariffs many American businesses had faced when exporting products to South Korea and has invited increased investment by Korean businesses here in the U.S. As of 2016, Korea is S.D.’s sixth-largest export destination, and our state’s exports to S.D. grew by $14 million over the last decade.
At our facilities in Madison and Yankton, we support hundreds of jobs manufacturing compact equipment for use in the construction and agricultural sectors. Korea is the world’s fifth-largest market for machinery exports of the type manufactured by Manitou-Gehl. U.S. manufacturers exported $2.8 billion worth of machinery to Korea between 2008 and 2010. Because of KORUS, the vast majority of U.S. machinery exported to Korea are duty-free; U.S. manufacturers had previously been subject to over $638 million in tariffs from 2008-2010, which hindered their ability to compete as exporters to Korea.
In addition to exporting this machinery to destinations all over the world, including Korea, the KORUS agreement is important to our customers, as well. Many of our customers in the agricultural sector, for instance, are now able to sell their products more freely into Korea without having to face costly tariffs that make their products less competitive.
KORUS is a success story upon which our elected leaders should build. And at a time when geopolitics on the Korean peninsula have been especially fraught with challenges, this would be an especially inopportune time for the U.S. to weaken our relationship with the government in Seoul.
Still, the best point in favor of KORUS is that it works. And for the sake of our economy, the U.S. should build upon it, not abandon it.
Rick Alton is the president of Manitou Group’s Compact Equipment Product Division in support of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. Manitou’s Madison and Yankton locations employ hundreds of people and produce skid loaders that are exported all over the world.
Originally published in the Argus Leader on November 6, 2017.