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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

Category: South Korea
July 16, 2014 at 10:18 AM

Seoul searching: How KORUS is working out

The South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) went into force in March 2012. According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, it “means countless new opportunities for U.S. exporters to sell more Made-in-America goods, services, and agricultural products to Korean customers – and to support more good jobs here at home.” It created America’s first…

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Comments | More in South Korea | Topics: KORUS

June 10, 2013 at 10:42 AM

Seattle’s tight focus on trade

A Cosco container ship enters Elliott Bay. Cosco is the national flag carrier of China, the world's largest trading nation. (Photo by Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

A Cosco container ship enters Elliott Bay. Cosco is the national flag carrier of China, the world’s largest trading nation. (Photo by Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

The Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle held its annual dinner last Thursday. Gov. Jay Inslee was the keynote speaker. I was on a panel with Len Jordan of Madrona Venture Group and Jeff Frazier of Microsoft, moderated by Bill McSherry of Boeing. Major sponsors were Boeing, Microsoft and Highline Community College. Among those buying tables were the Port of Tacoma, the Port of Seattle, the Port of Everett, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Washington State Department of Commerce. In addition to public officials and business people, attendees included consular officials of other countries.

It was an evening that attested to the power of trade here, and to this community’s interest in the wider world. Both are big advantages. Gov. Inslee promised the state would do what it could to win the 777X, said Washington would “feast at the table of technology” and touted the increase in cherry exports under the new Korean-U.S. trade agreement as well as the 100,000th Chrysler exported from the Port of Gray’s Harbor. Our panel was put through the paces in predicting such things as China’s growth and Middle East air traffic in 2013. I’ve worked in cities and states that only gazed at their navels, measured economic success in the number of new tract houses built. This is far better.

On the other hand, we live in our own bubble. Washington is a net winner from the trade status quo. The same is not true everywhere. For example, a year after the free-trade agreement with South Korea was signed, the U.S. trade deficit was larger and the promised increase in American jobs hasn’t happened.  South Korea is a currency manipulator, too.

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Comments | More in Aerospace/Boeing, Agriculture, Microsoft, Ports of Seattle and Tacoma, South Korea, Trade

August 8, 2012 at 9:55 AM

KORUS: Another over-sold trade deal

The new free-trade agreement between South Korea and the United States may be a boon for Washington state. For other states, not so much. South Korea is Washington’s fourth-largest trade partner. Exports have grown from $1.6 billion in 2005 to nearly $3.3 billion in 2011. President Obama has made the so-called KORUS deal the centerpiece of his plan to double U.S. exports over five years, saying it would create 70,000 new jobs.

But free-trade deals have a way of disappointing. The U.S. International Trade Commission predicted that China’s entry into the World Trade Organization would result in only a $1 billion trade deficit; in 2011, the deficit turned out to be $295 billion. The commission now predicts that U.S. exports will outpace imports from Seoul by at least 52 percent. In April and May, after KORUS was in place, the U.S. trade deficit with South Korea rose 63 percent.

Some good boots-on-the-ground reporting comes from Pulitzer Prize-winner David Cay Johnston, who traveled to Seoul. “I think the president suffers from irrational trade exuberance, a view reinforced by my reporting in this city of 10 million people,” he wrote for Reuters. “This deal is likely to turn out badly for American taxpayers and workers, especially autoworkers.”

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