The issue of what constitutes a "domestic" or "imported" car has been a contentious and muddled debate over the last two decades, with many import brands ranking highest in domestic content for cars produced, with Toyota often in the top 10 list with its models. The high domestic content of its U.S.-built vehicles has opened the door for the Japanese auto giant to export its vehicles to South Korea, following the bilateral passage of a free-trade agreement between the Asian republic and the U.S. last November. Toyota announced exports of its 2013 Venza crossover began last month, shipping out of California's Port Hueneme. Toyota began exporting U.S.-built Camry sedans and Sienna minivans to South Korea last year.
It may seem strange that Toyota is shipping vehicles across the Pacific from the U.S. to Korea when Japan is only a few hundred miles away, but the free trade agreement between the U.S. and South Korea makes the vehicles cheaper than if they were exported directly from Japan. Until the mid-1990s, South Korea banned imports of Japanese cars outright.
Japan, China, and South Korea are in the early stages of negotiations of a free-trade agreement between the three nations, but progress has been foiled by island territorial disputes between the three nations.