U.S.-South Korea Trade Pact Could Benefit Women Entrepreneurs

By Todd Bullock
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - Successful negotiation of a U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) could benefit both Korean and American female entrepreneurs by promoting economic growth and reform in Korea, says U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Alexander Vershbow.

In both countries, historically "women have made the most progress when the economy is growing and changing rapidly," Vershbow said March 21 in a speech to the Korean Women Entrepreneurs Association in Seoul.

The ambassador added that, "In this context, women probably find it in their own self-interest to be advocates of economic reforms that will result in a more relaxed regulatory environment, and greater opportunities for the formation of new businesses."

In February, the United States and Korea announced plans to begin negotiating an FTA. If approved by both countries, a U.S.-South Korea FTA would increase South Korea's gross domestic product by as much as 2 percent, boost Korean exports to the United States by 15 percent and raise manufacturing employment by 6.5 percent, according to Vershbow.

An FTA "will also have a profoundly positive impact on foreign investment in Korea, which can provide Korea with more advanced jobs and technology," he said, adding all U.S. FTA partners have seen a sharp increase in U.S. direct investment. (See related article.)

Other benefits include providing the opportunities for reform-minded economic leaders to continue to strengthen the Korean economy through "market opening and economic policy reform," he said.

"This may be the most important benefit for Korea’s female entrepreneurs:  to the extent that an FTA encourages a more transparent business environment, regulatory reforms, and a more level playing field for all companies and entrepreneurs, it can only increase the opportunities for Korean businesswomen to succeed," Vershbow said.

The envoy emphasized the importance of "active and energetic support" for the proposed FTA from Korean and U.S. business communities, including entrepreneurial women's associations.

"Without your help, this initiative will not succeed," he said.

"Launching FTA negotiations is a vote of confidence in the enduring strength of the ties between our two countries, and a further step in the ongoing modernization of our relationship toward a true partnership of equals," Vershbow said.

For more information on U.S. policies, see East Asia and the Pacific and Trade and Economics.

The full text of Vershbow's remarks is available on the U.S. Embassy in Seoul Web site.