By Greg Slater, director of Trade and Competition Policy at Intel Corporation
President Obama spoke to the U.S. Chamber yesterday, and despite serious disagreements in the past, both the President and the Chamber are now seeking common ground. In this economy, that’s not a hard task. We all agree with the President that “We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build our competitors”and that our economy needs to be “based not on what we consume and borrow from other nations, but what we make and sell around the world.” In other words, increasing competitiveness at home while increasing market access abroad are synergistic objectives. Indeed, the Administration’s recently released innovation strategy treats those objectives as one.The vigorous pursuit of both is essential to America’s future and prosperity.
The pursuit of greater market access for U.S. goods and services should begin with one critical task: The Administration needs to submit the U.S./South Korea free trade agreement (KORUS) to Congress as soon as possible, and for its part, Congress needs to approve KORUS promptly. As we discussed in a recent op-ed, the implementation of KORUS will result in significant benefits to the U.S. economy and provide the right momentum for a balanced trade policy going forward. The longer we wait to move on KORUS, the greater the decline in our market share of the Korean market as Europe, China, India and other countries pursue their own trade agreements with South Korea. And the more we delay approval of KORUS, the less confidence other foreign governments will have in our ability to successfully conclude additional market access initiatives.
As President Obama said in his SOTU address, our real challenge is not whether we share common ground and can sit together and speak to each other civilly — “but whether we can work together.” That time has come. KORUS is a perfect opportunity to test the trade rhetoric. Promptly approving KORUS could be the first bipartisan success of this new Congress and a signal to the American people and business owners, both large and small, that Washington has their best economic interest at heart.