The Role of Constituency and the Power of the Executive Branch in the US-South Korea Free Trade Agreement

On October 12, 2011, the US Senate ratified the US-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS)—the largest free trade agreement (FTA) signed by the United States government since the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. The only consistent predictor of Senate voting on KORUS was each senator’s political record of faithfulness/opposition to conservative political philosophy. While forming the bill, there were three necessary attributes for an industry to successfully lobby for protection: united members, a significant economic narrative, and strong political connections to the executive branch. Even though the auto industry only comprised around 5 percent of the original agreement’s projected export increases, an entire trade agreement benefiting many industries was nearly discarded until the auto industry’s projected exports from the agreement were increased from 28.7 to 35.7 percent—only 1.5–1.9 percent of the total increase in exports to South Korea.

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