Free trade with Korea creates jobs in US: vice finance minister

Free trade with Korea creates jobs in US: vice finance minister

The Free Trade Agreement between South Korea and the US has been helpful in creating jobs in the US through Korean companies that have invested in the American market, Korea’s vice finance minister said.

“South Korea and the US have established economic cooperation that mutually benefited each other and the Korea-US FTA is an example,” Vice Finance Minister Choi Sang-mok said in a Seoul seminar on policies of the new US administration under US President-elect Donald Trump. The event was co-hosted by the Korea Economic Institute of America, a Washington-based nonprofit think tank, and the state-run Korea Institute for International Economic Policy.

“According to Heritage Foundation, the top 12 Korean companies that invested in the US created more than 35,000 jobs in the US last year. This is triple the figure from 2012, the first year that the FTA took effect,” Choi said.

He said Samsung Electronics hired 15,000 workers across the US, with Hyundai Motor’s factory in Alabama hiring 3,500 and Kia Motors’ factory in Georgia hiring 3,100.

Since the Korea-US FTA went into effect, US car exports to Korea doubled, widening the choices for Korean consumers, he said.

His comments came amid rising concerns the new Trump administration might try to renegotiate the Korea-US FTA, calling it “unfair” to Americans.

Choi went on to say that the Korean government will seek reciprocal cooperation in large infrastructure and energy development projects with the new US administration, as Washington is likely to create a business-friendly environment and nurture future-oriented industries.

“With eased regulation, there will be new opportunities in the process of the fourth industrial revolution,” Choi said.

Claud Barfield, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said Trump is unlikely to take immediate, drastic actions on trade issues with Korea.

After taking office, it will take about one to three months for the Trump administration to make preliminary moves on trade, he said.

The first move will be naming China a currency manipulator and the second will be trying to renegotiate NAFTA. Then, he might “begin to talk with the Korean government on trade,” Barfield said.

Choi Byung-il, a professor at Ewha Womans University, also said Korea will be torn between Washington and China in a trade dispute.

He urged the government to come up with “a new trade initiative” if Trump’s protectionist stance hurts the traditional trade relations between Korea and the US.

Seoul should persuade Washington the US trade deficit was less to do with unfair trade but with US consumers’ strong preferences for foreign goods, the professor said.


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