The remarkable effects of FTAs

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The remarkable effects of FTAs

Since the free trade agreement between Korea and the European Union took effect on July 1, cheap commodities from Europe are already helping ease consumer price strains here.

Frozen pork belly, known as samgyeopsal in Korean, from the Netherlands now sells at almost half the price of local pork belly, which stands at 2,280 won ($2.17) per 100 grams. Thanks to the imports, the sky-high price of Koreans’ favorite meat dish - which spiked from the mass culling of pigs after the recent foot-and-mouth disease epidemic - has come down considerably. Pork belly products from Belgium and France have also hit the shelves at more accommodating prices of 1,000 won per 100 grams.

The downward price movement does not only apply to produce: luxury European products also have modified their price tags. As a result, Koreans can now buy a BMW 3 Series for as much as 8.5 million won less than pre-FTA prices of 45.3 million won to 51.6 million won.

And the Korea-EU FTA has not only shaved prices of European products. Japanese and American carmakers are also reducing prices to compete with European imports. They are even cutting dealership margins in order to bring down prices.

In Europe, Korean companies are making big strides thanks to the tariff benefits of the FTA. Hyundai Motor, for example, sold 336,000 vehicles in 25 European countries in the first half of the year and is expected to outpace Japanese automaker Toyota by raising its market share in the euro zone by more than 5 percent in the second half. Japanese media have begun worrying that Japan will lose its share in the European market to its Korean counterparts due to a strong yen and the Korea-EU FTA.

It is undisputable that benefits from free trade agreements are immense. During the seven years of the Korea-Chile free trade agreement, bilateral trade has surged by 287 percent. In Chile, Korean motor vehicles and electronics now outperform their Japanese competitors.

And less than a month after the free trade agreement with the world’s largest economic bloc, we are seeing real improvements in consumer prices at home and in bilateral trade. Come August, there is no reason for our politicians to dilly-dally over ratifying the FTA with the United States in light of the positive outcomes from the FTA with Europe.

FTAs are an economic and trade issue that should be addressed from an economic perspective. It should not be wasted and watered down by partisan politics.
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