Trade expansion is critical to America’s economic recovery and has enormous potential to create good jobs and generate billions of dollars in new American exports. Yet bilateral free-trade agreements with Columbia, Panama, and South Korea--negotiated and signed three years ago-- have since been languishing in Congress.

However, Connecticut can help get them approved, according to His Excellency Han Duk-soo, former prime minister of the Republic of Korea and current ambassador to the United States.

A Harvard University Ph.D. in economics, the ambassador told hundreds of businesspeople at The Connecticut Economy Conference in Rocky Hill that free trade is particularly important for small and midsized companies, because they are often shut out of foreign markets by high tariffs and other barriers.

The ambassador applauded Connecticut’s business community and Congressional members such as Sen. Joe Lieberman, who, he said, have all been instrumental in maintaining momentum for the passage of the pending trade agreements.

He urged conference attendees to contact the Obama administration and continue to push for approval of the agreements.

“I ask you to accelerate your activism and lead the charge for their ratification. First, it is about jobs,” he explained, as free trade offers “one of the best opportunities to create good jobs” in America’s manufacturing and agricultural industries and financial sector.

“Second, it is about economic growth—it’s an economic stimulus package with no additional cost to taxpayers of the U.S.”

The ambassador explained that Korean tariffs as high as 8% on many of Connecticut’s exports would be eliminated under the agreements, making Connecticut companies more profitable and competitive with Japanese exporters.

“Third, it is about security and shared values.” An alliance between our two democracies, he said, would not only bolster our economies but also “promote peace and stability.”

Korea is the United States’ seventh largest trading partner, and the U.S. is Korea’s fourth largest trading partner.

The conference was presented by CBIA, the Hartford Area Business Economists, and the Barney School of Business at the University of Hartford. -- Lesia Winiarskyj

Lesia Winiarskyj is a CBIA writer/editor. She may be reached at lesia.winiarskyj@cbia.com.