US-South Korea FTA Takes Effect Today

March 15, 2012 12:45 AM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Impact of deal will likely reduce South Korea's surplus in trade with U.S., which totaled $13.1 billion in 2011

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

The South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement finally begins its implementation process today, a process that will show around 80 percent of the existing tariffs between the two countries eliminated today, while the plan calls for 95 percent of tariffs to be eliminated within five years.

U.S. autos. South Korea's 8 percent tariff on U.S. autos will be cut to 4 percent today.

U.S.-South Korea trade amounted to just over $100 billion in two-way trade in 2011 – the U.S. is South Korea's fourth-largest trading partner, while South Korea is the eighth-largest trading partners for the U.S.

The KORUS FTA eliminates eliminate tariffs and quotas on most agricultural products traded bilaterally. The United States receives immediate duty-free access to Korea for almost two-thirds of current U.S. agricultural exports immediately. This would apply, among other products, to wheat, corn, soybeans for crushing, whey for feed use, hides and skins, cotton, cherries, pistachios, almonds, orange juice, grape juice, and wine. Tariffs and import quotas on most other U.S. agricultural goods would be phased out within 10 years. However, longer transition periods would apply to Korea’s more sensitive commodities. This means tariffs, quotas, and safeguards to protect against import surges would be phased out in various stages ranging up to 23 years.

Tariffs on beef and potatoes for chipping will be removed in 15 years, on fresh grapes in 17 years, on ginseng products and fresh pears in 20 years, and on fresh apples in 23 years.

TRQs with long phase-out periods (10 to 18 years) apply to other sensitive products as cheeses, butter, dairy-based infant foods, barley, whey for food use, animal feed supplements and hay, corn starch, and ginseng.

However, seven U.S. agricultural products (skim and whole milk powders, evaporated milk, in-season oranges, potatoes for table use, honey, and identity-preserved soybeans for food use) are subject to Korean TRQs that slowly expand in perpetuity. Shipments against these quotas would enter duty-free, but over-quota amounts would indefinitely face prohibitively-high tariffs.

USDA notes that these TRQs ensure access for U.S. exporters that South Korea could have easily changed under its multilateral trade commitments.

Also, because of the sensitivity of marketing during harvest, quotas and/or tariffs and phase-out schedules would vary, depending on the season of the year that U.S. oranges, table grapes, and potatoes for chipping enter Korea’s market.

Unique to this FTA, South Korea secured the right to specify the state entities and trade associations that would administer each TRQ under either an auction or licensing system.

Safeguards (e.g., in the form of special add-on tariffs applied in case of import surges) would be triggered if imports from the United States of some sensitive agricultural products exceed specified levels.

Korea succeeded in excluding rice and rice products from the agreement—its main objective in negotiating agricultural issues. This outcome reflected the prevailing view that rice is vital to maintaining, and inseparable from, Korea’s national identity, and the political reality that rice farming preserves the basis for economic activity in the countryside. However, the United States will continue to be able to sell rice under quotas created to meet South Korea’s multilateral WTO commitments.


NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.






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