The Sweet Fruits of Free Trade

After years of delays and renegotiations, a free trade agreement between the United States and South Korea (KORUS) finally took effect four months ago. Some parts of the U.S. economy are already bearing sweet fruit.

As of this year, cherry growers in Washington have shipped 368,000 boxes of fresh cherries to South Korea. Compared to the same period last year, exports have more than doubled from 171,000 boxes. “We’ve already surpassed our expectations and we have another month and a half to go,” B. J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherry Growers and the Washington State Fruit Commission, said Friday. On March 15, as KORUS went into effect, the 24 percent tariff on cherries was removed, helping U.S. cherry growers to be more competitive in an international marketplace.

For the U.S. economy, such vibrant growth in trade is good news. For example, according a report released by the Senator Maria Cantwell’s (D–WA) office, Washington’s two ports (in Seattle and Tacoma) together generate 313,000 jobs statewide. South Korea is the fourth largest market for Washington goods, worth $1.4 billion of exports last year. And cherry exports to South Korea are expected to continue growing.

Not surprisingly, it is not just the U.S. economy that benefits from KORUS. In South Korea, where fresh cherries can be found only in upscale supermarkets at more than $10 per pound, more consumers will be able to enjoy high quality cherries at an affordable price.

This is just one example of how trade freedom, one of the 10 significant factors of economic freedom, brings mutual benefit to the global economy.

Sylvia Oh is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit

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