Ky. gains from free trade

A free-trade agreement signed by President Barack Obama in October and by his counterpart in South Korea late last month is already paying off in Kentucky.

Toyota has announced it will begin exporting Camrys made in Georgetown to South Korea in January.

The automaker initially plans to ship about 6,000 Camrys a year from Kentucky to South Korea.

The free trade agreement, which had been held up for years, came at an opportune time for Toyota. Bloomberg reports that the rising value of the Japanese yen had made Camrys exported from Japan too expensive to compete in the South Korean market.

The agreement lowers South Korean tariffs on U.S.-made autos from 8 percent to 4 percent and will eventually eliminate them, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission. The lower tariffs will help offset the additional cost of shipping cars from Kentucky.

The trade agreement is expected to increase U.S. exports of cars and auto parts to South Korea by 54 percent — good news in Kentucky, which produces more vehicles than all but two states.

Toyota has already started exporting Sienna minivans made in Indiana to South Korea.

Other Kentucky industries, especially bourbon and agriculture, are eager to dip their toes in South Korea now that barriers to U.S. goods have been lowered.