Even though Korea's trade surplus with the United States has exceeded US$100 billion for the past five years since the passage of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, the share of surplus that has benefited from the FTA was only 20 percent. The remaining $80 billion was primarily due to the item's competitiveness. As for the number of items for which the United States benefited from the trade agreement, it was 16 out of 20. During the same period, U.S. companies have invested $7.9 billion in Korea while Korean ones put $37.0 billion in the United States.
The figures were results of an analysis made by the Korea Economic Daily based on data provided by the Korea Customs Service on the fifth anniversary of the Korea-U.S. FTA passage. Yoo Byung-gyu, head of the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics & Trade, said, "The figures show that free trade benefits both sides of trade relations unlike Donald Trump's argument that it has benefited Korea only."
According to the Korea Customs Service, the total amount of surplus enjoyed by Korea from 2012 to 2016 was $109.7 billion, of which the portion benefited directly by the FTA was $22.0 billion. The rest of $87.7 billion came from items that were not subject to the FTA tariff concession. Semiconductors and smartphones, the major two items for which Korea earned most surplus, had been exempted from tariff imposition even before the FTA.
As for the United States, the exports of items such as fruits, nuts, and beef which were given tariff reduction by the FTA have increased substantially since the 2012 agreement. The number of items for which any of the two countries benefited among top-20 export items was 16 for the United States and 12 for Korea.