KORUS: A test of competitive liberalization theory

Ben Muse, the blogosphere’s chief KORUS correspondent, has posted a wealth of links and information about the impact of the agreement in terms of trade diversion and competitive liberalization.

My favorite paragraph (rhetorically, not substantively) is from a FT editorial:

Karan Bhatia, the deputy US trade representative, described the deal as a “real shot in the arm” for the US trade agenda. Maybe, but it is a shot in the kneecaps for the multilateral trading system, which remains the only way to agree and enforce workable trade deals. Unilateral reform always works, of course, but failing that, what we really need instead is some kind of “World Trade Organization”. There’s an idea.

Another paragraph worth highlighting comes from a February op-ed by Fred Bergsten.

Political developments within the United States suggest that Korea has a unique historic opportunity to achieve a preferred trade and indeed overall relationship with the United States that is unlikely to be available to any of its main competitors for a prolonged period of time. This will be realized if Korea can conclude its negotiations for a comprehensive and balanced free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States within the next two to three months so that the deal can be approved by Congress under the “fast track” provisions of President George W. Bush’s current trade promotion authority. Since that authority is unlikely to be extended when it expires next July, or even when a new administration takes office in the United States in 2009, Korea’s key competitors such as Japan and Taiwan will probably be unable to receive similar treatment in the foreseeable future and thus Korea will achieve preferred status for a considerable period.

Locking in preferential advantages for a considerable period doesn’t sound like the cascading freeing of trade that competitive liberalization is supposed to encourage.