FTA incites business action

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FTA incites business action

With the strong possibility that the Korea-United States free trade agreement will take effect starting next year, local businesses are moving swiftly to prepare to take advantage of the new opportunities it affords.

A group of conglomerate heads are in the U.S. accompanying President Lee Myung-bak on his state visit, including GS Group Chairman Huh Chang-soo (who is also the chairman of the Federation of Korean Industries), and Poongsan Group Chairman Ryu Jin. According to industry sources, the businessmen are also meeting their counterparts in the U.S. to explore ways to exploit the Korus FTA.

“The ratification of the Korus FTA will open up new opportunities for local firms,” said an official from the FKI. “Conglomerate heads in the U.S. are preparing for the changes the trade accord could bring to their businesses and maximize its impact.”

Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong-koo was widely expected to visit the U.S. with the FKI group since one of the industries that should benefit the most from the FTA is the auto sector. However, according to Hyundai Motor Group, Chung remained in Seoul as he had to welcome Georgia Governor Nathan Deal this weekend.

The company said its chairman was expected to meet with a number of high-ranking Americans in both political and business circles. Instead, he will meet with Deal in Seoul and ask for his support for a Kia Motors’ manufacturing plant in Georgia.

Under the FTA, the U.S. will cut its 2.5 percent tariff on Korean automobiles within four years.

LG Group Chairman Koo Bon-moo is also in the U.S. and was expected to accompany Lee and U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday on their visit to Detroit. LG Chem, Korea’s leading chemicals maker, has a lithium battery plant in Detroit.

Businessmen are even more eager to exploit new opportunities under the FTA amid a slowing of the global economy, which is expected to impact the export-driven Korean economy. Economic analysts worry that both sales and operating profits of Korean firms will drop next year.

Heads of business groups including the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Korea International Trade Association and the Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business are also in the U.S. looking for ways to maximize the economic benefits of the trade deal.

Last month, Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee visited the U.S. to evaluate its market in North America. Hyundai’s Chung went to Frankfurt last month to visit Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors’ sales outlets as well as Hyundai Motor’s manufacturing plant in the Czech Republic. According to sources, he told employees there that they “should not fear the current European economic crisis but be more aggressive in terms of marketing new cars.”

GS Group Chairman Huh also visited Shandong and Qingdao, China, last month and told the group’s chief executives, “China is growing as the world’s most important consumer market despite external difficulties.” He told his staff that they should find new opportunities in the market by understanding the country better.

By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [머니투데이]

자동차공업협회 "한·미 FTA 美 의회 비준 환영"

한국자동차공업협회(KAMA)는 "한·미 FTA(자유무역협정)이 12일 미국 의회를 통과한 것을 크게 환영한다"고 13일 밝혔다.

KAMA는 "한·미 FTA 발효로 1500만대 규모의 미국 자동차 시장을 안정적으로 확보하게 될 것"이라며 "올해 115만대로 예상되는 한국 자동차의 미 시장 판매확대와 수출경쟁력 향상에 큰 도움이 될 것"이라고 내다봤다.

KAMA는 "특히 부품관세의 즉시 철폐로 약 30만명을 고용하고 있는 국내 5000여 개 중소 부품기업의 수출증대가 예상된다"며 "현지 완성차 공장의 경쟁력 향상에도 도움이 될 것"이라고 강조했다.

한편 KAMA는 "우리 국회도 정파를 초월해 대국적 차원에서 한미 FTA를 조속한 시일 내에 처리해 줄 것을 기대한다"고 덧붙였다.

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