The U.S.-Korea agreement is the most commercially significant trade agreement considered by the Congress in 17 years. And it couldn’t come at a better time. With the unemployment rate stuck stubbornly above nine percent, we must seek out and take advantage of all opportunities to create American jobs. This agreement, known as KORUS, will do just that by supporting hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs in all sectors.
Last year, I worked closely with the Administration, the major automakers, and Mr. Levin to address persistent barriers to U.S. automobile trade with South Korea. The supplemental agreement, which is incorporated into the legislation before us today, addresses key tariff and non-tariff barriers and includes numerous provisions to ensure that South Korea can no longer use its regulatory system to block U.S. exports. The International Trade Commission estimates that removal of non-tariff barriers will add an additional $48-66 million in new exports. This is in addition to the $194 million in expected new exports from lower Korean tariffs on U.S. autos.
Inaction on KORUS has allowed the EU, and other competitors, to step in and steal U.S. market share and has diminished U.S. leadership in Asia. KORUS is key to our engagement in Asia and a critical bulwark to Chinese influence in the region. I call on the President to promptly enter this agreement into force so that our workers, companies, farmers, and ranchers can get off the sidelines and re-capture market share. KORUS – and the other two agreements we will pass this week – will create sustainable and well-paying jobs.
Passage of KORUS will also deepen ties with a strong and important ally. The United States and South Korea have stood shoulder-to-shoulder for more than sixty years. KORUS is the next step forward in our bilateral relationship, and today’s action could not come soon enough. I look forward to welcoming President Lee during his state visit tomorrow and to congratulating him personally on passage of this important agreement.