[Excerpt] Similar to other trade agreements, the proposed U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement(KORUS-FTA) has attracted both supporters and detractors, primarily over the impact the agreement could have on employment in the economy. Supporters argue that the agreement could create as many as 280,000 jobs in the economy. Others, however, argue that the agreement could lead to an overall loss of up to 159,000 jobs in various sectors of the economy. Still others contend that the United States stands to lose exports, employment, and extended economic opportunities if it fails to sign a trade agreement, while the European Union and other nations are lining up to finalize similar agreements with South Korea.
Estimating the economic impact of trade agreements, however, is a daunting task, due to a lack of data and important theoretical and practical matters associated with generating results from economic models. In addition, such estimates provide an incomplete accounting of the total economic effects of trade agreements. This report assesses the results of a number of models that are being used to generate estimates of the effect of the KORUS FTA on employment. These studies were chosen specifically because they estimate (or can be used to estimate) data on employment effects of the trade agreement. All economic models incorporate various assumptions that are necessary in order for the model to generate results. Invariably, these approaches determine, to some extent, the results that are generated and, therefore, limit their representation of the real world economy. Currently, the various models produce widely disparate estimates of the number of jobs affected by the trade agreement, reflecting the various assumptions that are used in the models and differences in the approaches.