The Korea-U.S. Free Trade agreement, passed in 2011, represents the future of trade agreements, with its high standards to address the concerns of ever increasing global connectivity and rapidly changing economic conditions. Besides the technical achievement in the negotiation of KORUS, the passage of KORUS is a testament to the political will of the U.S. and South Korea, despite vehement opposition on both sides against free trade. On a geostrategic level, the KORUS is symbolic of the U.S. pivot toward the Asia Pacific and was the first step toward greater Asia Pacific economic integration, setting the stage for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the success of which is a major goal for the Obama administration. In the context of the TPP, KORUS serves as both a technical model, especially in terms of trade facilitation and services liberalization, but also as an impetus for greater economic integration, as the KORUS has fueled the entrance of other countries into TPP negotiations and other developing trade regimes. This paper will examine the provisions that make KORUS a forward-looking agreement and how these provisions tie into the negotiation of the TPP, as well as the barriers to trade integration in the Asia Pacific region and the feasibility of the passage of the TPP.
Abigail Trenhaile is a first-year M.A. student at SAIS, concentrating in Korea Studies. She graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2011 with a B.A. in economics and political science. She has worked in various levels of government, including the legislature and prosecutor’s office in Honolulu and in the U.S. House of Representatives. During her undergraduate study, she worked on issues related to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation and studied in Korea and Taiwan. As a 2012 U.S. State Department Rangel Fellow, she will enter the Foreign Service as an economic officer upon graduation.