Travel Diary: Secretary Clinton Discusses Korea Free Trade Agreement

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
April 17, 2011
Secretary Clinton at Presidential Blue House in Seoul

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke to members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Seoul, South Korea on April 17, 2011. The Secretary said:

"...I wanted to come by to express our strong commitment to ratifying, through our Congress, the Korean free trade agreement by the end of this year. That is our goal. That is our commitment. And we need your help in order to achieve it. We are very committed to expanding jobs in the United States and in our trading partners. We think that what is happening here is vital to America's economic renewal. East Asia is home to 4 of our 10 largest trading partners. And the Asia Pacific, as all of you know so well, represents, by far, our fastest-growing export market.

"I have championed American jobs and American businesses as Secretary of State. I have been very honored and privileged to speak out on behalf of Americans who are doing business around the world. And I have championed American economic engagement in Asia, advocating for our workers and our businesses, looking for a level economic playing field on which to compete. And that is why I, along with the rest of the Obama Administration, have made it a diplomatic priority to advance the rules and principles of open, free, transparent, fair competition for everyone.

"As you probably know, President Obama announced the national export initiative last year to double American exports. And we know that one of the ways you do that is by opening up trade. We are also working to strengthen Asia's regional economic architecture. We will be hosting the 2011 APEC summit in Hawaii later this year. We are pushing to advance economic integration, remove trade barriers, and make sure that our national regulations line up in a way that encourages trade. We are also working hard on the trans-Pacific partnership, a cutting edge regional free trade agreement that would eventually cover an area responsible for over 40 percent of global trade.

"Now, across Asia -- in fact, across the world -- we are looking for opportunities to open more markets and unleash the talents of people everywhere to improve their own lives and the lives of their families and societies, and to drive economic growth in a way that provides prosperity broadly to as many people as possible.

"Now, the U.S. and Korea already have one of the most vibrant trading relationships in the world, one that accounted for nearly $88 billion last year. Korea is our seventh largest trading partner, and the United States is South Korea's third largest trading partner. Our $38.8 billion in exports to Korea already support approximately 230,000 American jobs, a point that I make often with our friends back home.

"But the truth is we know we can do more and create more jobs if we can lower the barriers to trade between our countries. I know that many of you in this audience, American and Korean alike, have long been supporters of KORUS, because you know it will deliver significant benefits. The tariff cuts alone will increase exports of American goods by $11 billion, supporting tens of thousands of American jobs. And the South Korean ministry of knowledge economy estimates that within a decade KORUS alone will grow South Korea's economy by six percent. KORUS also contains very strong protections on labor standards, the environment, intellectual property rights, and regulatory due process. We believe all of those are essential to creating a level playing field and making sure that trade actually delivers for people.

"Now, of course the benefits of KORUS go far beyond the economic bottom line. Ratifying KORUS is profoundly in our strategic interest, as well. We have such a deep and broad relationship between our two countries. We are allies, partners, and friends. And, of course, I am well aware of how important it is that we constantly make sure that our relationship is as strong as it possibly can be. I am happy to report that I think it is at the strongest point that one can look back in history and account for.

"So, getting this done on behalf of KORUS is another powerful message that we are working together, of course, for our own countries, but also in a strategic relationship that is beneficial to the region and the world. I know how Korea has become, in many ways, a global power: hosting the G20, hosting the nuclear security summit next year, really stepping out very impressively on the world stage in so many areas. And we want to be your partner. And we believe that this agreement is one of the most tangible benefits of and evidence of that strong partnership.

"I am pleased to report that KORUS is currently ready for review by the United States Congress. This is a high, if not a top -- I think it is probably one of my top priorities for the next months. We are determined to get it done, and I believe we will. We will need your help. It will be important to keep making the case to both of our respective legislative bodies.

"When one looks at South Korea's rise within my own lifetime from a poor nation, devastated by war and having lived through so many decades of difficulties and troubles to being one of the most dynamic societies and economies anywhere in the world, it is a very impressive story. I am optimistic that we are on the cusp of a new era of even greater global leadership and closer ties between our two nations. We are well positioned to continue rising together, delivering peace, prosperity, and progress to the Korean and American people. And I greatly appreciate the opportunity to work on behalf of this very important goal.

"So, thank you for everything you have done. I know that this particular body has been instrumental in making the case. So don't flag now; we need your last-minute push. You cannot talk -- at least speaking for my own congress, having been a member of the Senate for eight years -- you cannot talk often enough to make the case. And I hope that you will not flag in our efforts to be sure that we see the realization of this very important goal this year."

You can read the full remarks here.

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