U.S. Commerce Secretary Locke and Congressional Delegation Conclude Productive South Korea Meetings

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and the congressional delegation today concluded their three-day trip to Seoul with a visit to the Demilitarized Zone –the border between South and North Korea – and lunch with U.S troops and their families at Yongsan Garrison to thank them for their service. The group also met with leaders of South Korea’s Democratic Party and Grand National Party at Korea’s National Assembly to discuss the U.S.-South Korea Trade Agreement (KORUS).

“Over the last few days we have had the opportunity to see first-hand the benefits that KORUS will bring to the economies of both the U.S. and Korea,” Locke said. “There is great demand for U.S. products -- from made-in-America cell phone components to life-saving medical equipment. This agreement will increase mutually beneficial trade, strengthen our economies and create jobs in both of our countries.”

Locke also visited Seoul National University Hospital for a demonstration of Varian Medical Systems’ (Palo Alto, Calif.) advanced radiotherapy technology.  Varian is the world leader in this life-saving, cancer treatment technology with approximately $34 million worth of annual sales to South Korea.  Their equipment is manufactured in California and Utah and exported globally. Under the U.S.-South Korea trade agreement, the tariff on Varian’s products would be eliminated, making the company more competitive in the Korean market.  

During the trip, Locke and the congressional delegation met with South Korea’s key political leaders, including President Lee Myung-Bak, the Minister of Knowledge Economy, the Minister of Trade, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well as American and South Korean business leaders, and university students. They stressed the importance of the U.S.-South Korea agreement to strengthening the countries’ economies and the bilateral relationship.  Locke also visited Pantech’s manufacturing facility to see assembly of cell phones using high-tech U.S.-made components.

“As a Korean War veteran, I couldn't have been more proud to witness today's 'Dynamic Korea.' Seoul's skyscrapers, booming businesses and rising apartment buildings are a testament to the resiliency and determination of the Korean people,” U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) said. “I remain optimistic that the U.S. Congress will soon ratify the pending free trade agreement between our two nations.”

“It has been a successful trip and we understand the importance of and the depth of feeling South Koreans have about concluding KORUS," U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) said. "We have been friends with South Korea for a long time, and they want us to recognize them for what they are – an economic powerhouse. The Korean government has made it clear this trade deal is a priority, and they were willing to show flexibility to ensure it is a win for both countries."

"In today's world we need strong allies like South Korea more than ever,” U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) said.  “Expanding our trade relationship is the right thing to do for America's national security as well as for growing our exports and maintaining U.S. competitiveness.  I look forward to working to secure Congressional approval of KORUS upon our return to the U.S.  And I want to thank South Korea for the warm welcome and hospitality they've shown to us throughout our visit."

"This trip has been an unforgettable experience. I appreciate the invitation from Secretary Locke, and I thank the people of Korea for their hospitality," U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) said. "This visit has served to reinforce the economic benefits of the KORUS FTA to both the United States and to Korea. I look forward to sharing what I have learned on this trip as I continue working with my colleagues to promote the benefits of this agreement."

The U.S.-South Korea trade agreement is an integral part of the President’s efforts to increase opportunities for U.S. businesses, farmers and workers through improved access for their products and services in foreign markets. 

The agreement is the United States’ most commercially significant trade agreement in more than 16 years.  South Korea is the United States’ 7th largest trading partner, and U.S. goods exports to South 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 South Korean tariffs and tariff-rate quotas under the agreement on goods alone would add $10 billion to $11 billion to annual U.S. GDP.  By expanding access to South Korea, the 12th largest economy in the world, the agreement will support tens of thousands of American jobs, open South Korea’s $580 billion services market to American companies, eliminate South Korean tariffs on 95 percent of U.S. exports of industrial and consumer goods within five years, and immediately eliminate South Korean tariffs on over two-thirds of U.S. agricultural exports.
See Congressman Jim McDermott’s guest blog post, President and CEO of Varian Medical Systems Timothy E. Guertin’s guest blog post, and updated photos from today’s events.