The U.S. ratification of the stalled Free Trade Agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama indicates that "there is a possibility, despite the very great partisan divisions in Congress, of bipartisan cooperation on economic issues," says CFR's Edward Alden. However, Alden emphasizes that "it is important not to overstate the potential job creation benefits" of the agreements.
As Presidents Lee and Obama reaffirm the relationship and celebrate congressional approval of a long-pending free trade deal, they must also focus on difficult challenges ahead with North Korea and China's rise, say experts.
The longstanding U.S.-South Korea alliance, created as a bulwark against a communist North Korea, has expanded to include tighter trade ties and cooperation on global issues from climate change to international development.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's visit to Washington is likely to see passage of the Free Trade Agreement and coordination on strategies for pushing North Korea toward denuclearization, says CFR's Scott Snyder.
The latest inter-Korean talks were shadowed by North Korea's failure to apologize for the Cheonan sinking and Yeonpyeong Island shelling. This raises questions about renewed diplomacy on the North's nuclear program, says CFR's Scott Snyder.
South Korea's exercises on Yeonpyeong are a response to last month's North Korean attack and growing public anger, says CFR's Scott Snyder, who urges greater China-U.S. cooperation on the Korean peninsula and strengthening South Korean defenses.
The new U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement has the potential to measurably spur the economy and reassure a top U.S. ally, but President Obama needs to take firmer steps to boost a flagging trade agenda, write CFR's Edward Alden and Scott Snyder.
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