The South Korean government is reportedly planning to serve American wine during President Obama's lunch in Seoul, sending a half-subtle hint that Americans should stop stalling ratification of the delayed U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement.
The deal was signed in 2007, but has faced opposition from U.S. officials who oppose South Korean rules limiting the sale of American cars. In that time, South Korea has made progress on a number of other important free trade agreements, most notably with the European Union and India. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has warned that failure to implement the agreement in light of South Korea's newer deals would inflict a $40.1 billion blow on the U.S. economy and cost us 345,000 jobs.
So what do experts hope Obama will think when he imbibes American vintage?
- Don't Let the Wine Fool You Christian Oliver warns that a free trade agreement does not necessarily make for smooth sailing in a foreign market. Oliver says it's important to note that the real benefits of a Chile-South Korea FTA have not been passed to Korean wine consumers, but rather to the small number of importers keeping prices high regardless. "Cutting tariffs alone does not make a successful trade deal," he says. "Don't forget non-tariff barriers of which South Korea is a master."
- S. Korea, Our New Key Asian Ally Bruce Klingner, of The Heritage Foundation, says that enacting the U.S.-Korea FTA would not only have a positive impact of $10 billion on the U.S. GDP, but also help secure good relations with a key geo-political ally. He says South Korea has demonstrated the ability and willingness to fill in the void left by Japan's recent unwillingness "to play a major international security role." However, he fears that Obama is "willing to sacrifice an important strategic agreement on the altar of auto sector protectionism."
- There Should Be No Traffic Jam The Washington Times understands the importance of giving U.S. carmakers the same access to the Korean market that Korean companies get to the American market. However, The Washington Times says "that could be negotiated under the auspices of a functioning bilateral free-trade agreement." The Washington Times also warns that further inaction on the U.S.-Korea FTA will only "allow other nations to step into the economic vacuum."
- This FTA Is 'the One' The Seattle Times editorial board stresses the importance of securing a trade advantage over Europe by ratifying the U.S.-Korea FTA before the European's have theirs.
This is not like an agreement with Peru or Panama. This is a big one. South Korea is the 11th largest economy in the world. It's a country that makes some of the best flat-screen TVs on the market, and can afford products made by American workers.