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There are several government sources for information and data on how KORUS will affect our nation and state economically. One is the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), an independent Federal agency with broad investigative and judicial responsibilities on matters of trade. The ITC serves as a resource for trade data and other trade policy-related analysis, providing information and analysis to the President, the Office of the United States Trade Representative, Congress, and the public to facilitate development of trade policy. The ITC did a major (390-page) study of the national impacts of KORUS in 2007.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in turn provides state-by-state impact information. And the US Department of Agriculture summarizes what it sees are benefits to Washington’s farmers. A more detailed overview of Washington’s agricultural export opportunities can be found in the State Department of Commerce Quarterly Trade Bulletin for July 2011.
Benefits from KORUS are expected to be realized by Washington producers of a diverse array of products: wheat, wine, potatoes, cherries, hay, hops, fish, machinery, coffee roasters, aircraft, and lumber and other building products.
Free-trade agreements beginning with NAFTA have been very contentious, and KORUS is no exception. Nationally, KORUS is supported by the United Autoworkers but opposed by the AFL-CIO. In Washington the State Labor Council and Aerospace Machinists are on record in opposition.
A survey of congressional websites indicates that several members of our congressional delegation support KORUS, but most have not yet stated their position. Some hold key assignments on committees that will vote on KORUS.
Among those most involved are Representatives Reichert, Smith, and Larsen, and Sen. Cantwell. The first three are members of the bi-partisan KORUS FTA Working Group, of which Reichert is founder and co-chair. Reichert is also a member of the President's Export Council, and he accompanied Secretary Locke on his trip to South Korea. Cantwell sits on the Senate Committee on Finance which has already begun preliminary markup of the trade pact. Congressman McDermott is the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Trade, which also has begun mark-up. He also accompanied Locke to South Korea.
Still to be heard from are Representatives Dicks, Hastings, Herrera Beutler, Inslee, McMorris-Rodgers, and Sen. Murray. Both Hastings and McMorris-Rodgers represent Eastern Washington agricultural areas that would gain from KORUS. Hastings does cite trade benefits to the growers of cherries, which are a big hit in Seoul.
Oregon’s Sen. Wyden has been an active KORUS supporter. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness, he has worked with the ITC to produce an updated estimate of its economic benefits.
Our relationship with South Korea has importance beyond trade. South Korea is obviously an important political and military ally as well as a trading partner. The relationship is complex, involving the presence of U.S. troops that help defend the South from a hostile and economically fragile North Korea. So the decision before Congress on KORUS will involve more than benefits measured in exports and jobs.
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