South Korea and the United States have officially signed a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), putting an end to the 17-month tough negotiations since February last year.
South Korean Trade Minister and chief negotiator Kim Hyun-jong and u.s. Trade Representative Susan Schwab formally signed the FTA at 10:40 a.m. Saturday at the Canon Building of the U.S. Congress in Washington, the Foreign Ministry said.
The two countries worked out the final details in time to meet the expiration deadline of the U.S. trade promotion authority, legislation that requires the Congress to vote only yes or no on an FTA without seeking amendments once signed.
This time, the two governments are to launch process to get ratification of the pact from lawmakers so that the pact may be put into force as scheduled.
However, the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives dominated by the Democrats Friday opposed to the pact, saying currently they could not support the Korea-U.S. FTA, while South Koreans have waged violent demonstrations against the pact.
As a result, rough sail is expected till the pact will be ratified by lawmakers in each country, an observer said.
In particular, Korea is to hold presidential elections in December and the United States in November next year.
Earlier, the two countries reached the agreement in the 11th hour after an additional negotiations on two cases from June 22-27, to reflect seven tightened requirements, including labor and the environment, adopted in the U.S. new trade policy, although they tentatively settled the agreement on April 2.
Korean exporters will be able to increase their share in the U.S. market, larger than China, Japan and ASEAN in combination, and consumers will be able to buy goods from the United States cheaper than now, an FTA expert said, adding that domestic entrepreneurs will be able to cut financing costs in raising capital thanks to probable gain of creditability and reduced security risk.
But, the agriculture, including cattle farmers, are expected to be hard hit by the opening of the market, and there has been few discussions concerning services markets, such as medical and educational sections, when the broadcasting and telecom markets are excluded, the expert pointed out.