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U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke Reinforces Need for U.S.-South Korea Trade Agreement

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Locke delivers keynote address at the American Chamber of Commerce in South Korea, visits Pantech manufacturing facility

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke delivered the keynote address at a luncheon hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in South Korea today where he stressed the importance and benefits of growing U.S.-South Korea commercial relations through the U.S.-South Korea Trade Agreement (KORUS).  Locke is in South Korea leading a bipartisan congressional delegation to demonstrate firsthand how this agreement will support job creation at home and spur economic growth in both the U.S. and South Korea. 

“This trade agreement is going to help move forward significant national priorities for America and South Korea, while spurring economic growth and job creation in both countries,” Locke said. “For the United States, implementation of the agreement will help create a level playing field for U.S. businesses and workers, and help increase exports. For South Korea, this is an opportunity to secure preferential access to the U.S. market, lock in this access, and provide its companies with an edge over global competitors.” 

Earlier in the day, Locke and the congressional delegation visited Pantech, one of the largest mobile phone makers in South Korea, to see firsthand how the U.S.-South Korea Trade Agreement will help American and South Korean businesses and workers in today’s global manufacturing and supply chain. 

Currently, Pantech imports about half a billion dollars worth of U.S. products annually, including chipsets from Qualcomm (San Diego, Calif.) and Gorilla Glass from Corning Inc. (Corning, New York).  Gorilla Glass is manufactured in Harrodsburg, Kentucky and is exported around the world for use in smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices and has applications across a large range of industries.  In addition, nearly 60 percent of Pantech’s production equipment is made by U.S. companies.

With the approval and implementation of the U.S.-South Korea agreement, Pantech is expected to quadruple its purchase of U.S. products by 2015, while Corning will see existing tariffs on Gorilla Glass eliminated immediately upon implementation of the agreement. Corning, utilizing these benefits, will gain market share in South Korea’s growing mobile-device market by enhancing its competitiveness vis-à-vis other manufacturers in the region.  Corning is also investing $180 million to expand its factory in Harrodsburg in order to meet the growing demands of its customers in Asia, including South Korea.  Earlier in the day, Locke met with his South Korean counterpart, the Minister of Knowledge Economy Choi Joong-Kyung, to discuss KORUS and the cooperative relationship between the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Ministry of Knowledge Economy.

Tomorrow, Locke and the delegation will visit the Demilitarized Zone -- the border between South Korea and North Korea.  They will also have lunch with U.S. troops and their families, along with the United Nations Command.  The group will also meet with leaders of South Korea’s Democratic Party and Grand National Party, as well as the National Assembly Committee on Unification, Foreign Affairs, and Trade. 

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).

The U.S.-South Korea Trade 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 text of Secretary Locke’s keynote remarks, guest blog post by Amy Jackson, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in South Korea, and updated photos from today’s events.