Guest Contributor William Krist: Silence on the U.S.-Korean Trade Agreement

Expectations are high that the U.S. and Korea will implement their Free Trade Agreement in the not very distant future.  While trade wonks are aware of this agreement, the general public is uninformed and the mainstream press has largely ignored the issues being debated.  Contrast this with the debate in 1992 over our trade agreement with Mexico when the North American Free Trade Agreement was the centerpiece of Ross Perot’s run for President.

Korea and Mexico are just about the same size economically; in fact the World Bank ranks Korea as the world’s fifteenth largest economy, just slightly smaller than number fourteen Mexico.  No one expects “a giant sucking sound” of lost jobs to result from this agreement, and in fact some studies, such as the one by the U.S. International Trade Commission, project that the U.S. economy will benefit over the long term.

However, some industries, particularly autos and beef, have raised serious concerns that need to be taken into account.  President Obama has given trade negotiators until November to resolve all outstanding issues, so that he can sign the agreement during his trip to Korea for the G-20 meeting.  There is still an opportunity to improve this agreement in a way that will better promote our economic interests and strengthen our relationship with this important ally.

William K Krist is a Senior Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center.  He is a former Senior Vice President of the American Electronics Association.  He has written extensively on trade, development, and the environment.  For more information on this topic read his paper ‘Improve then Approve the U.S. – Korean Trade Deal.

Sources:, World Bank,

Photo credit: Morning Calm Weekly Newspaper – Korea Region – US Army Korea – IMCOM – November 20, 2009 courtesy of flickr user US Army Korea- IMCOM