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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Proposed U.S. – South Korea Free Trade Agreement: Potential National Sector-Specific and State Export Effects

Mary Jane Bolle
Specialist in International Trade and Finance

James K. Jackson
Specialist in International Trade and Finance

Remy Jurenas
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

Michaela D. Platzer
Specialist in Industrial Organization and Business

In February 2011, the United States and South Korea finalized negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement. As a result, the Obama Administration is expected to submit implementing legislation to the 112th Congress on the proposed U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA). This report addresses congressional interest in the effects of this agreement on exports by state to South Korea by using two sets of data. Data developed by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) are used to identify the possible direction of trade change for 40 industries at the national level. These results are paired with lists of each state’s top 10 exports which provide a guide to the possible direction of trade for various state industries as a result of tariff elimination and tariff rate quota reductions under the proposed KORUS FTA. Improved access for services, liberalized investment regimes, and elimination of non-tariff barriers for a few goods and agricultural products are not captured in this analysis.

Estimating the trade effects of a potential FTA, however, is highly sensitive to the assumptions used and to important limitations of the available data. Such estimates are especially problematic at the state level. As a result, the data in this report should be viewed as providing a general sense of the possible impact of the proposed FTA on state level exports. Over the full implementation period of the agreement, a broad range of economic factors can overwhelm the potential effects of tariff and tariff rate quota provisions. Whether a state’s exports are higher as a result of the KORUS FTA will depend significantly on whether firms that now export take advantage of the market openings (e.g., declining or eliminated tariffs, expanding or phased out quotas) negotiated in this trade agreement. In addition, the extent to which state exports change in the same pattern as projected by the USITC estimates, will depend on the extent to which they echo the makeup of the respective industry at the national level.

While South Korea is the United States’ seventh largest trading partner, it accounts for less than 3% of all U.S. trade. It has a population one-sixth that of the United States. By comparison, Canada and Mexico, the United States’ first and third largest trading partners, with whom the United States also has a trade agreement (the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)), accounted for 16% and 12% respectively of total U.S. trade in 2010.

The impact of the KORUS FTA on the exports of individual states reflects both projected national effects on industrial sectors and the composition of industries within each state. Manufactured products currently dominate U.S.-South Korea trade, and the dollar value of exports in virtually all industries is expected to be higher than without a trade agreement. However, the greatest sectoral growth rate in trade is expected to come from agricultural exports, in states with large agricultural sectors. Higher imports in some industries, particularly auto and parts production, are not expected to affect gross exports, but could affect net exports.

The discussion in this report is limited to presenting the effects of the KORUS FTA on U.S. exports to South Korea on a national level with possible implications at the state level. It does not present data on U.S. imports from South Korea at the state level because of data issues. Nevertheless, increases in imports in some sectors and in some states could be higher than increases in exports as a consequence of the FTA.

Date of Report: June 20, 2011
Number of Pages: 69
Order Number: R41879
Price: $29.95

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