United States-South Korea Free Trade Agreement to Take Effect March 15, 2012
Thursday, February 23, 2012
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has announced that the United States-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will take effect March 15, 2012. The two sides have exchanged diplomatic notes confirming that they have each completed their applicable legal requirements and procedures for the agreement’s entry into force.
A USTR press release states that as of March 15 almost 80% of U.S. exports of industrial products to South Korea will become duty-free, including aerospace equipment, agricultural equipment, auto parts, building products, chemicals, consumer goods, electrical equipment, environmental goods, all footwear and travel goods, paper products, scientific equipment, and shipping and transportation equipment. Also on that date, almost two-thirds of U.S. exports of agricultural products to Korea will become duty-free, including wheat, corn, soybeans for crushing, whey for feed use, hides and skins, cotton, cherries, pistachios, almonds, orange juice, grape juice and wine. In addition, the KORUS agreement includes a number of significant commitments related to non-tariff measures that will come into force March 15, including obligations related to motor vehicle safety and environmental standards, enhanced regulatory transparency, standard-setting, technology neutrality, customs administration, and strengthened protections for intellectual property rights.
Key Republican leaders welcomed the news and expressed hope that the FTAs with Colombia and Panama will enter into force soon as well. U.S. officials have been discussing implementation with their counterparts in those countries, but there has been little public news about the progress of those talks. Some have called for the Colombia FTA to be postponed due to ongoing anti-labor violence, but Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch urged the Obama administration not to “delay the implementation of the Panama or Colombia trade pacts because of issues that have nothing to do with the agreements themselves.”
House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Brady said the administration should build on the momentum associated with these FTAs to “promptly” complete negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and “work with Congress on a forward thinking, aggressive trade agenda for the future.” To best move those efforts forward, Hatch added, the president should also seek a renewed congressional grant of trade promotion authority, which allows the executive branch to negotiate and move trade agreements through Congress in an expedited manner.