Amcham basks in its role promoting FTA

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Amcham basks in its role promoting FTA

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Pat Gaines

Pat Gaines, the chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, is anticipating an “exciting year” as the business group celebrates its 60th anniversary and works with the new administration following the first anniversary of the implementation of the Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement.

Amcham has been an instrumental player in expanding trade and investment between Korea and the U.S. Since its foundation in 1953, the members of largest foreign chamber in Korea have created tens of thousands of jobs, introduced new products and services and conducted various corporate social responsibility activities here.

Gaines, who is also president of Boeing Korea, said the Korus FTA can be referred to as the “gold standard” of FTAs, citing its comprehensive scope and detailed rights and obligations with regard to regulatory transparency, investment policies, intellectual property and services liberalization.

“The Korus FTA calls for improvements in the transparency of government policy making which will help encourage innovation in Korea’s economy,” Gaines said in an interview with JoongAng Ilbo last week. “It will also improve the business environment by giving both domestic and foreign companies greater security in planning their business strategies and pursuing new investments.”

Although people will need to wait a few more years to see meaningful results, Gaines said new U.S. investors in a variety of sectors are already coming to Korea. He said U.S. foreign direct investment in the nation last year reached $3.7 billion, a 54.9 percent increase from 2011.

“The Korus FTA not only increases investment from the U.S. but also attracts more investment, with the potential for more jobs, from countries such as China and Japan, which view Korea as a launch pad from which to expand trade to the U.S. and other economies.”

Gaines, who took the Amcham chairman position in May 2011, said that to further upgrade the development and promotion of commercial, economic and cultural exchanges between two countries, Amcham will continue to serve as a key player.

“Amcham has worked closely with our Korean partners both in government and in the business community and we look forward to working closely with the new administration,” he said. “We look forward to supporting President Park Geun-hye achieve key policy goals, including creating a more fair economy and creating more opportunities for SMEs.”

Last October Amcham launched the Amcham Council on Innovation for the Future to promote innovation and further collaboration between the Korean and U.S. business communities. Gaines said the key to innovation in an economy is to ensure that there is an enabling environment for innovators.

“When innovative ideas are rightly rewarded and protected, more Korean companies will put real money into R&D and more foreign business will set up R&D centers here,” he said. “These pro-innovation policies need to be carefully designed allowing for feedback and input from all stakeholders in a transparent manner before being implemented.”

Gaines, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, said that despite the recent nuclear threat from North Korea, investor confidence remained strong and business continued as usual for Amcham and its members.

“We are confident that the Korean government, in close cooperation with the U.S. and other allies, will address the situation appropriately and continue to work to secure peace and stability in the region,” he said.


By Lee Ga-hyeok [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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