Last Saturday, at the G20 meetings in Toronto, Presidents Obama and Lee announced their intent to pursue the trade agreement more aggressively (Remarks by President Obama and President Lee Myung-Bak of the Republic of Korea After Bilateral Meeting).
One of the other points that we discussed extensively was the issue of commercial and trade ties between our two countries. There has been a lengthy negotiation to arrive at a free trade agreement. The last time I was in Korea, I said that I would be committed to moving this forward. And today I indicated to President Lee that it is time that our United States Trade Representative work very closely with his counterpart from the ROK to make sure that we set a path, a road, so that I can present this FTA to Congress.
We are going to do it in a methodical fashion. I want to make sure that everything is lined up properly by the time that I visit Korea in November. And then in the few months that follow that, I intend to present it to Congress. It is the right thing to do for our country. It is the right thing to do for Korea. It will strengthen our commercial ties and create enormous potential economic benefits and create jobs here in the United States, which is my number one priority.
And also with regards to the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, as President Obama talked about, when he was visiting Korea last November he also assured of his firm, continued commitment towards realizing this very important agreement. He and I agreed that we will continue to work closely together so that we can talk about the specific ways to move this forward. And we very much welcome and thank President Obama for proposing a date for us to look forward to, and we will work towards that date and that objective in the weeks and months ahead. And again, I thank President for this very constructive proposal.
Elizabeth Williamson wrote the story for the Wall Street Journal: U.S. Vows New Push in Korean Trade Pact. Among other things, she notes:
- Obama will be visiting Seoul in November for a G20 meeting.
- We aren't necessarily talking about a formal renegotiation of the agreement itself ("We don't know specifically what the proposals are from the U.S. side. We're of the understanding that it's not a proposal to renegotiate," Shin Hyun-song, a senior economic advisor to Korean President Lee Myung-bak told reporters on the sidelines of the G-20 meetings.).
- Also: ""It's not clear to us at this time whether there will be additional negotiations to improve the agreement or whether the plan is to go ahead with it as negotiated" in 2007, said Thea Lee, deputy chief of staff at the AFL-CIO. "The concern is that they address issues raised about market access especially by the auto industry."
- So maybe there will be memoranda of understanding, or letters clarifying different issues. Substantive changes could be made without formal changes to the agreement.
- Cars and beef remain U.S. issues: "U.S. officials said negotiators have worked with Congress and the Korean side and determined they can reach a deal by complementing the original agreement with revisions governing exports of U.S. beef and automobiles. They declined to say what those revisions might entail."
- Nothing would be submitted to Congress until after the November mid-term elections.
- Why now? There's the alliance. Also important: "To some extent, the U.S. is racing the clock.... The European Union and Canada are also pursuing trade agreements with Korea.... If they reach their pacts first, and U.S. efforts stumble, "we stand to lose about $30 billion in exports," a White House economic official estimates." On the other hand, maybe they won't reach their pacts first: Parliament to vote on Korea FTA in November at best.