August 31, 2014

Businesses could benefit from Korea trade deal

Wisconsin companies have a number of opportunities under the new free trade deal with South Korea. That was the message from Eric Sohn, a U.S. Commerce department trade specialist, in speaking to a business association in Madison.

The Madison International Trade Association (MITA) hosted Sohn last week to detail the U.S. – Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) that took effect in March of this year. Sohn said the agreement will eliminate most tariffs and duties, while ensuring a level playing field for companies that want to trade with Korea.

Although Wisconsin has not been among the most active states trading with Korea, the Badger State still exported $420.7 million in goods to the Asian nation in 2011. The largest share of that was machinery ($118.7 million) and processed food ($95 million). Electronics equipment came in third at $87.3 million.

As Koreans are adopting more of a Western diet, Sohn emphasized a potential market for more of Wisconsin agricultural products and manufactured food.  He cited state exports of processed food doubling from 2009-2011. Agricultural goods also took a big jump and made up $25 million worth of state exports last year.

On March 15, two-thirds of U.S. agricultural products became duty-free under KORUS, “a major, major win” for the ag sector. Meanwhile almost 80 percent of exports of consumer and industrial products became duty-free on that date, which will increase to 95 percent of those goods within five years.

Even without a free trade agreement, South Korea was the 7th largest trading partner of the United States, buying over $43.5 billion in goods and $17 billion in services in 2011, according to a release from MITA.

AUDIO: Brian Moon reports (1:00)