US-South Korea Free Trade Opens to Cheers, Jeers

Korean left vows to change, repeal, if they win looming elections
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 15, 2012 11:42 AM CDT
US-South Korea Free Trade Opens to Cheers, Jeers
South Koreans hold flags of the United States and South Korea to celebrate the free trade agreement, or FTA, with the United States during a rally in Seoul, South Korea, today.   (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

(Newser) – The US-South Korea free trade agreement takes affect today, despite plenty of opposition in both countries, reports Reuters. As South Korea is the fourth-largest economy in Asia, US officials touted the deal as a major win for the American economy. "Starting today, Korea's doors are wide open for Made-In-America exports that will support well-paying jobs here at home," says the US trade rep, while South Korean President Lee Myung-bak praised it as "a high-standard treaty that will become a good model of global free trade."

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In Korea, the deal instantly eliminated 80% of duties placed on US goods, causing sales of California wines and citrus to spike. USTR officials say the deal should increase US exports to Korea by $1 billion per year and support 70,000 American jobs. But the FTA has also been the source of controversy, causing demonstrations and even fights in Korea's National Assembly, and Korea's left-wing opposition has promised to renegotiate or even repeal the deal if it takes power in elections later this year. US automakers were also against the deal, citing Korea's many non-tariff trade barriers. (Read more free trade agreements stories.)

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