Yonhap | January 09, 2009
Microsoft comes down squarely on side of FTA
‘Korea, by far the most significant of the FTAs in economic terms, establishes a foothold for the U.S. in Asia.’
WASHINGTON — Microsoft has called for the incoming Barack Obama administration to push ahead with ratification of the pending free trade deal with Korea.
“Microsoft supports rapid passage of the bilateral Free Trade Area Agreements now pending with Colombia, Panama and Korea and the conclusion of the WTO Doha Round,” the U.S. software giant said in a policy recommendation to the Obama transition team.
In a policy report titled “The IT Industry Depends on Fair Trade and Open Markets,” Microsoft said, “Korea, by far the most significant of the FTAs in economic terms, establishes a foothold for the U.S. in Asia and ensures that a key market is committed to transparency and regulatory due process, along with expanding trade opportunities for the IT sector.”
“Trade liberalization, when accompanied by strong rules and a commitment to enforcement, is good for America,” it said. “Staying on the sidelines is not the answer to how to enhance our competitiveness vis-a-vis Europe and Asia.”
Obama has called the South Korea FTA “badly flawed,” saying that the nation exports more than 700,000 automobiles to the U.S. annually while buying only about 6,000 U.S vehicles.
Korean officials, however, challenge those figures, saying the “export” total includes 250,000 units made at an Alabama plant by Korea’s largest automaker, Hyundai.
The figures cited by Obama also do not include more than 125,000 automobiles sold in Korea by GM Daewoo, a Korean subsidiary of GM, they said.
Obama and his aides have said they oppose the Korea FTA as it stands, but stopped short of favoring renegotiation of the bilateral FTA.
Some say Obama’s opposition has been more of a campaign strategy to woo votes from trade unions, which are among his main political supporters, and hope that Obama will be able to win support from the Democratic-controlled Congress.
Others say FTA ratification with Korea, one of its strongest allies, would help the U.S. consolidate its foothold in Asia.
Despite a majority of congressional Democrats opposing the trade deal, diplomats here say the deal will likely be approved with ease once put to a vote. They say some Democrats as well as Republicans favor the free trade deal with Korea, the seventh-biggest trading partner of the U.S.