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U.S. Statement at the WTO Trade Policy Review of the Republic of Korea
October 11, 2016

WTO Trade Policy Review of the Republic of Korea (Day one)

Statement of the U.S. Representative
Delivered by USTR Deputy Chief of Mission Christopher Wilson

October 11, 2016

Thank you, Chair.

Good morning to Deputy Minister Lee and all the visitors from Seoul, as well as Ambassador Choi and our excellent colleagues in Geneva.  On behalf of the United States, I welcome this opportunity to participate in the seventh trade policy review of the Republic of Korea.    We would also like to thank the Secretariat for its excellent report, and the Discussant, Ambassador Jonathan Fried [of Canada], for reminding us of the history of the very remarkable economy that we are reviewing today.  We appreciate the responses received to our written questions.

Economics and trade together make up an important cornerstone of the United States’ relationship with Korea.  That relationship has only grown stronger since Korea’s last trade policy review in 2012, when the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) had just entered into force.  During the intervening four years, U.S.-Korea trade in goods and services increased from $126.5 billion to $147 billion.  This demonstrates a growing maturity and confidence in our bilateral economic relationship.  Korea now has a record-high level of $40 billion invested in companies in the United States, which is more than double the pre-KORUS levels.

Outside of the KORUS FTA, U.S.-Korean trade cooperation also continues to deepen and grow.  We are close partners in APEC, and the United States appreciates the cooperative nature of Korea’s work in such areas as digital trade and services.  Likewise, we value Korea’s active engagement in plurilateral initiatives such as TiSA and the Environmental Goods Agreement negotiations. Furthermore, we commend Korea for ratifying the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and welcome its leadership in implementation. We appreciated Korea’s active participation in the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement and the successful conclusion of that negotiation, and we now urge Korea to fully and quickly implement its obligations under that agreement.

The United States commends Korea on its continued drive toward trade liberalization, as evidenced by its ever-expanding network of FTAs.  Since the release of the last trade policy review, Korea has concluded eight new FTAs.

We note that the TPR reports address Korea’s customs procedures, and this is an area our two governments have worked on closely together. The United States welcomes the strides Korea has made since its last review in the area of customs modernization, and we would emphasize the value of meaningful stakeholder involvement as its customs service continues to work to improve processes and procedures in accordance with the customs modernization principles being discussed in the World Customs Organization [WCO].  We would note that we continue to see from Korea’s customs authority significant scrutiny of the country of origin claims made for U.S. origin products, even when these are accompanied by official origin certifications or attestation documents.  We hope to continue to work with Korea to increase trust in the U.S. documentation system.   Likewise, as Korea shares information on creating customs clearance systems with developing nations, we strongly encourage a WCO-consistent approach.

With the implementation of KORUS, regulatory transparency in Korea has increased significantly.  Still, Korea’s regulatory environment is often mentioned by businesses – Korean and foreign-owned alike – as slowing the country’s economic progress.  In line with good regulatory practices outlined by both APEC and the OECD, the United States strongly encourages Korea to make further strides toward increasing stakeholder involvement, subjecting proposed new regulations to rigorous impact and cost-benefit analysis, and, wherever possible, to harmonize Korean requirements with international standards.

Regarding Korea’s termination of its special treatment of rice under the WTO Agreement on Agriculture as referenced in the Secretariat’s report [Section 4.2.2], as well as Korea’s pending rectification and modification of its tariff schedule [G/MA/TAR/RS/396], the United States looks forward to working with Korea to bring this matter to a timely and favorable conclusion.   Furthermore, while we respect Korea’s right to adopt sanitary and phytosanitary measures necessary for the protection of human, animal, and plant life and health, we look to Korea to ensure that its SPS measures are based on science and are consistent with the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures.  Also, we urge Korea, as one of the world’s leading fishing nations, to take a more constructive stance in the negotiations to prohibit subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing.

In trade, investment, and beyond, Korea is a strong ally of the United States.  The Korean government’s dedication to opening its economy, increasing transparency, and implementing ambitious reforms will strengthen Korea’s place in the global market, to the benefit of the Korean people and to Korea’s many trading partners.  We applaud Korea’s progress since the 2012 review, and pledge to work closely with Korea here in the WTO, in APEC, KORUS and other venues towards our shared pursuit of an open global trading system.

Thank you very much, Madame Chair, and I wish the best to Korea as it continues its Trade Policy Review.