SEOUL, Korea (April 27, 2011) – U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and members of Congress were welcomed to the Blue House on Wednesday to meet with Republic of Korea President Lee Myung-Bak.
Locke, who is leading a bipartisan congressional delegation to build support for the passage of the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement (KORUS), reinforced the importance of the bilateral commercial relationship as part of the two countries’ historic alliance and emphasized the importance of KORUS in spurring economic growth in both the U.S. and Korea.
“Korea is a vital ally, a strong friend, and an important economic partner,” Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. “KORUS is a win-win for both the U.S. and Korea. This agreement will strengthen our partnership and take it to the next level, by lowering tariffs and creating a more level playing field for businesses in both countries.”
The congressional delegation consists of four members from the U.S. House of Representatives – Reps. Charles Rangel (D-NY), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and David Reichert (R-WA).
Locke and the delegation discussed the benefits of KORUS for both the U.S. and Korea in productive bilateral meetings with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Kim Sung-Hwan and Trade Minister Kim Jong-Hoon. Earlier in the day, they met with the Board of Governors of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, as well as top Korean business executives.
Locke and the delegation also met with a diverse group of Korean university students over afternoon tea where they had an in-depth discussion about the youth perspective on KORUS and how various elements of the agreement will benefit the economic future of both countries. They talked about Korea’s impressive economic growth and its emerging economic leadership in the region and the world.
“The United States, Korea, and the entire world are counting on bright, motivated people like all of you to help meet the challenges our nations face,” Locke said. “Many of these challenges can be solved with the leadership and management skills that you will bring to the table. With your talent, creativity and ingenuity, you have the power to make a real difference.”
On Thursday Locke delivered the keynote address at a luncheon hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea to discuss KORUS. He also met with his Korean counterpart, the Minister of Knowledge Economy Choi Joong-Kyung.
The Secretary and the congressional delegation then toured a facility owned by Pantech, one of the largest mobile phone makers in Korea, and met with members of Korea’s National Assembly.
KORUS is the United States’ most commercially significant trade agreement in more than 16 years. Korea is the United States’ 7th largest trading partner, and U.S. goods exports to Korea through February 2011 jumped 10.9 percent compared to the same period in 2010.
According to U.S. International Trade Commission estimates, the reduction of Korean tariffs and tariff-rate quotas under KORUS on goods alone would add $10 billion to $11 billion to annual U.S. GDP.
By expanding access to Korea, the 12th largest economy in the world, the agreement will support tens of thousands of American jobs, open Korea’s $580 billion services market to American companies, eliminate Korean tariffs on 95 percent of U.S. exports of industrial and consumer goods within five years and immediately eliminate Korean tariffs on over two-thirds of U.S. agricultural exports.