Last week marked the three-year anniversary of the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS). Trade between the two countries has risen from $126.5 billion in 2011 to a record $145.2 billion in 2014, said U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. U.S. exports of key agricultural products, including dairy, which benefitted from tariff cuts and the lifting of other restrictions under the agreement, have continued to post significant gains. 

Last year’s 31.2% growth in farm exports to Korea was nearly seven times faster than U.S. agricultural export growth to the world at large, the USTR reported. U.S. dairy product exports to South Korea grew to $417 million, with the $199 million worth of fresh cheese exports showing a significant increase of 575 percent from a base of $30 million before the free trade agreement.  

In 2011, South Korea constituted the United States' sixth largest export market valued at $224 million in dairy and dairy products. Today, it’s the fifth largest market. When the agreement became effective on March 15, 2012, the U.S. dairy industry gained immediate open access for whey for feed uses, as well as tariff-free access for approximately 16,000 metric tons of cheese, milk powders, whey for food uses and other important dairy products. Tariffs on most dairy products will eventually be phased out over a period of 15 years.

“The U.S.-Korea trade and investment relationship is substantially larger and stronger than in 2011, and KORUS has contributed to a strong and successful 2014 for American exporters,” Froman said. “Because we have made trade with Korea easier, farmers and ranchers are exporting ‘Grown-in-America’ cherries, beef, cheese and other ag products at record levels.”

Froman said his office is looking to build on this success and unlock new opportunities for Americans by expanding trade in the Asia-Pacific and Europe.