South Korea Trade Agreement: The Good With the Bad

I have mixed feelings about our trade agreement with Korea. On the one hand, the agreement is commercially significant, with almost 95 percent of tariffs on industrial and consumer goods being eliminated within three years. We already have a $72 billion trading relationship with the Koreans, and full implementation of this agreement would promote significant growth in our bilateral trade. This may be the most beneficial agreement for U.S. pork producers, soybean producers, manufacturers and service providers than any other bi-lateral agreement we’ve ever had. It is probably the best agreement we’ve had since the North American Free Trade Agreement.

That being said, I’m disappointed that rice was excluded from the agreement. On principle, I oppose taking agricultural products off the table in trade negotiations. It just facilitates the continuation of protectionism.

Even more problematic is the absence of an agreement to remove Korea’s ban on U.S. beef, which is not scientifically justified. The fact is, U.S. beef is safe. Millions of consumers enjoy it every day. The political reality in Congress is that no matter the benefits, this agreement is dead on arrival until the beef issue gets resolved. I am urging the Korean government to engage our Administration in a strong effort to resolve the beef issue as quickly as possible.