Posted : 2012-02-24 19:01
Updated : 2012-02-24 19:01

Golden standard of FTA?

Pat Gaines, chairman of AMCHAM Korea

AMCHAM chief expects KORUS FTA will bring greater benefits for Korea

By Kim Jae-kyoung

The countdown for the free trade agreement between Korea and the United States (KORUS FTA) has begun as the two countries agreed Tuesday to put it into effect on March 15, six years after they met first at the negotiating table in June 2006.

Although they agreed on the long-awaited implementation of the historic pact that will make Korea the only country to run free trade pacts with both the U.S. and the European Union, there still remain big questions marks concerning multiple issues, including the investor-state dispute (ISD) system provisions.

The opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) and activist groups have vowed to prevent the implementation of the FTA. The DUP has requested the U.S. president and Congress to suspend the effectuation, calling for modifying 10 controversial clauses, including the ISD settlement system.

The country has been split over the KORUS FTA issue — companies, large and small, are backing the deal, while farmers, small shopkeepers and those in the services sector are deadly set against the pact.

The chairman of the U.S. business lobby group in Korea said the KORUS FTA is a fair deal for both countries, emphasizing that opponents should try to see the forest, not the trees.

He stressed that although the agreement can incur losses for some industries in the short term, it will be a monumental step for Korea to make headway toward becoming an advanced economy, which he believes will not only boost exports but also attract more foreign investment in Korea.

“I looked at a lot of FTAs, and I believe that KORUS FTA is what I call the golden standard,” Pat Gaines, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea (AMCHAM), said in an interview with Business Focus at his office in Jonggak, Seoul, on Feb. 15.

“No FTA can benefit every citizen in any country. Already the Korean government has introduced various policies to help ameliorate negative effects of its FTAs and to assist farmers and companies that could be disadvantaged by an FTA as the Korean market opens,” he said. “I truly believe that the benefits in the long run will be far greater for Korea because of the economic environment, processes and transparency that it will put in place.”

The KORUS FTA, in Gaines’ words, is by far “the most visible and the easiest one” because of the strong partnership and alliance between the two countries. “I think it has had so many problems just because it’s so big and important,” he said.

According to Gaines, the implementation of the pact does not just benefit Korea and the U.S. but will be good for foreign investors because it will take the Korea’s business environment to the international level.

The biggest part that Gaines feels may benefit Korea is that the FTA calls for improvements in regulatory transparency and more predictability in the market that will give both domestic and foreign firms greater security in planning their business strategies and pursuing new investments in the Korean economy.

“Regulatory transparency will put in place a framework for business conduct and intellectual property protection. That standard of doing business will help Korea establish not only growth with the U.S but also growth with every other country doing business in Korea,” said Gaines.

“The KORUS FTA takes that to the next step. Because of this agreement, there will be carryover effects on every other investor that comes into Korea.”

ISD in favor of Korea

Regarding the controversial ISD issue, Gaines, who also serves as president of Boeing Korea, the Korean arm of global aerospace giant Boeing, said that the dispute resulted from a misunderstanding of the ISD settlement system. In his view, the clause is more in favor of Korea, not the U.S.

“It is unfortunate that there seems to be some confusion about what the ISD settlement system does and does not do. In the context of the KORUS FTA, it would protect Korean investors in the U.S, and U.S. investors in Korea,” the 56-year-old chief executive said.

According to him, the overall statistics of investment between 2005 and 2010 shows Korean businesses invested $21.7 billion in the U.S, while U.S.-based parties invested $11.5 billion in Korea. “Therefore, we could say that Korean companies have more of a stake in the ISD because it will help protect their investments in the U.S.,” he said.

The ISD is a legal mechanism that is designed to protect investors in foreign countries. ISD clauses are stipulated in more than 2,500 international investment-related agreements in place today, including in 81 agreements that Korea has entered into.

The military officer-turned-CEO cites regulatory transparency as the area where Korea should focus on to improve business environment. He points out that too often, new rules that affect companies’ ability to do business are enacted in Korea without sufficient notice to or involvement of stakeholders, including the foreign business community.

“It is essential that the government make greater efforts to ensure that new policies and changes to existing policies are developed and implemented in a way that allows all stakeholders, both domestic and foreign, a chance to provide meaningful input into the process,” he said.
관련 한글 기사

한미FTA, 한국에게 유리한 조약?

_ 어떤 나라의 어떤 조약도 모든 사람 만족시킬 수 없어
_ 장기적으로는 한국이 한-미 FTA로 더 큰 이익 볼 것
_ 논란이 되고 있는 ISD도 한국 기업에 더 유리한 조항

지난 화요일 한, 미 양국이 FTA 를 3월 15일 발효할 것으로 합의하면서 지난 2006년 시작해 6년을 끌어오던 한-미 FTA 시행이 카운트 다운에 들어갔다.

시행에 동의를 했지만 여전히 풀어야 할 과제도 산적해 있다. 야당인 민주 통합당과 일부 시민단체들은 FTA 폐기론을 주장하면서 ISD (Investor-State Dispute: 투자자 국가소송 제도) 등 논란이 되고 있는 조항에 대해 시행전 재협상을 요구하고 있다. 특히 미 오바마 대통령과 의회에 FTA 시행 중지를 요구하는 내용의 서한을 보내면서 논란은 더 확산되고 있다.

총선을 앞두고 FTA 이슈를 중심으로 사회 분열이 심화되고 있다. 제조업 중심으로 기업들은 시행에 찬성하는 반면에 농부, 축산업자, 영세상인 등은 거세게 반발하고 있는 실정이다.

주한 미국 상공회의소 팻 게인스 (Pat Gaines) 회장은 한-미 FTA는 두 나라에 모두 득이 되는 조약임을 강조한다. 그는 단기적으로 손실을 보는 업종이 있겠지만 중장기적으로 수출증대와 외국인투자 증가는 물론이고 한국이 선진국으로 가는 기념비적인 조약이 될 것이라 강조한다.

“지금까지 많은 FTA 조약들을 봐 왔습니다. 그 중 한미 FTA는 가장 이상적인 황금률 조약 (golden standard of FTA)이라고 생각합니다,” 게인스 회장은 최근 보잉 코리아 본사에서 코리아타임스 경제섹션 비즈니스 포커스 (BusienssFocus)와 갖은 인터뷰에서 이같이 말했다.

“어떤 나라의 어떤 조약도 모든 국민을 만족시킬 수 없습니다. 한국정부는 이미 한-미 FTA로 불이익을 보게 되는 농부나 일부 기업들의 손실을 경감시키기 위한 다양한 정책을 준비해 왔습니다. 저는 한국이 한-미 FTA로 얻게 될 경제환경, 절차, 투명성을 고려할 때 장기적으로 한국이 더 큰 이익을 볼 것이라 믿습니다.

가장 논란이 되고 있는 ISD 이슈에 대해서 보잉 코리아 사장이기도 한 게인스 회장은 ISD 제도와 상황에 대해 잘못 이해한 데서 비롯된 혼란이라 설명한다.

“불행히도 ISD 조항이 무엇에 적용되고 적용되지 않는지에 대한 혼란이 있는 듯합니다. 한-미 FTA 관점에서 봤을 때 이 조항은 미국에서 한국 투자기업, 한국에서 미국 투자 기업을 보호하도록 되어 있습니다,” 그는 말했다.

2005년에서 2010년 사이의 투자통계를 살펴보면 한국 기업이 미국에 투자한 금액이 217억달러, 미국기업이 한국에 투자한 금액이 115억달러라고 그는 설명했다.

“따라서 ISD가 미국에서 한국기업의 투자를 보호할 것임을 고려하면 이 조항은 오히려 한국기업에 더 큰 혜택이 있는 제도라 우리는 생각합니다.”

영문기사 및 한글정리: 코리아타임스 경제섹션 비즈니스포커스 (BusinessFocus) 에디터 김재경

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