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Public Statements

Letter to President George W. Bush

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Letter to President George W. Bush

March 1, 2007

The President
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:
We are writing in advance of the eighth round of U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement negotiations, to present the enclosed Congressional Proposal to Open Korea's Automotive Market. This proposal reflects a pragmatic, trade-expanding, WTO-consistent approach that provides concrete, achievable positive incentives for Korea to open its automotive market and ensure the elimination of current and future non-tariff barriers in all industries. This proposal represents what we believe the United States needs to negotiate to achieve a satisfactory resolution to Korea's closed automotive market. In addition, it is a proposal that should be welcomed by Korean consumers and by the Bush Administration because it will lead to a more competitive market in Korea with greater choice of products and more competitive prices.

We have developed this proposal out of our growing concern that these negotiations will fail to effectively tear down Korea's non-tariff barriers, prevent Korea from using future non-tariff barriers to maintain its closed market indefinitely, and ensure access for imports to Korea's automotive market. For decades, Korea has enjoyed open access to the U.S. auto market. At the same time, it has kept its own market virtually shut to foreign competition through the use of an import ban, followed by high tariffs, coupled with a complex and discriminatory tax regime, coupled with systemic, comprehensive and long-standing regulatory barriers, coupled with periodic anti-import campaigns by the Government of Korea.

The issue of our inability to break down long-standing and discriminatory barriers in a bicameral negotiation would seriously undermine our ability to address non-tariff barriers in the more comprehensive multilateral negotiations underway at the World Trade Organization. Given the importance of this issue, we have made consistent and repeated calls for the United States to undertake a new approach with Korea that addresses in a complete, comprehensive, and systemic way the long-standing policies by which Korea created and maintains a fundamentally closed automotive market. The U.S. automotive industry and union leadership also have called upon the Administration to take a new approach. To date, however, no new approach has been put forth that would lead to genuine market opening in Korea. Instead, we understand that the proposals which have been exchanged have been similar to the same ones that were tried repeatedly in the past and that have failed to achieve any meaningful access for U.S. products.

Our proposal moves beyond previous negotiating strategies and embarks on such a new approach that addresses the United States' legitimate concerns that Korea will not obtain additional access to the U.S. market unless there is reciprocal opening of the Korean auto market. There are two key components to the Congressional proposal. The first part addresses the phase-out of the 2.5% U.S. passenger vehicle tariff and creates a positive incentive for Korea to open its market to U.S. autos. The second part addresses Korea's current non-tariff barriers and creates a mechanism - available to all industries - for the United States to take action against future non-tariff barriers. A copy of the proposal is enclosed, as well as a briefing paper that summarizes its key elements.

The Korean automotive market presents a significant potential market for U.S. exports of cars and automotive products and would greatly benefit the U.S. automotive industry and the hundreds of thousands of workers it employs and supports. U.S. automotive manufacturers can compete effectively in an open and fair Korean auto market. We look forward to discussing how our proposal achieves a truly open market and more balanced automotive trade with Korea.

Sincerely,

The Honorable Charles B. Rangel
Chairman, House Committee on Ways and Means

The Honorable Carl Levin
Co-Chair, Senate Auto Caucus

The Honorable George V. Voinovich
Co-Chair, Senate Auto Caucus

The Honorable Sander M. Levin
Chairman, Subcommittee on Trade
House Committee on Ways and Means

The Honorable John Dingell
Chairman, House Committee on Energy and Commerce

The Honorable Evan Bayh
Chairman, Senate Banking Subcommittee on International Trade, Finance, and Security

The Honorable Dale E. Kildee
Co-Chair, House Auto Caucus

The Honorable Debbie Stabenow
Member, Senate Committee on Finance

The Honorable Ron Kind
Member, House Committee on Education and the Workforce

The Honorable Fred Upton
Co-Chair, House Auto Caucus

The Honorable Ellen O. Tauscher
Chair
New Democrat Coalition

The Honorable Joe Knollenberg
Member, House Committee on Appropriations

The Honorable Candice S. Miller
Member, House Committee on Armed Services

The Honorable Vernon J. Ehlers
Member, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

The Honorable Thaddeus McCotter
Member, House Committee on Budget and Foreign Affairs

http://levin.senate.gov/newsroom/release.cfm?id=270074

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