In light of new data released today that shows the U.S.-Korea trade balance is now on track to become the largest trade deficit on record, Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), Ranking Member on the House Rules Committee, called on President Obama to ensure access to foreign markets for American manufacturers in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement that is currently being negotiated. As of August 2013, the U.S.-South Korea trade deficit was $14.887 billion, which is already $1.5 billion larger than in 2011 -- the year before the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) took effect -- and is on track to be the largest trade deficit on record with the country. Rep. Slaughter, a member of the Bipartisan House Manufacturing Caucus, used the new trade numbers as evidence that KORUS disadvantaged American manufacturers and said it should be a warning sign for future negotiations. Slaughter specifically mentioned the impact on Hickey Freeman, an American suit manufacturer based in Rochester, New York, that could be negatively impacted by TPP.
"As the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations appear to be drawing to a close, I am increasingly concerned that our trade negotiators are making the same mistakes that were made in KORUS and previous trade agreements," Rep. Slaughter wrote in a letter to President Obama. "These agreements have decimated American manufacturing companies in regions like Rochester, New York in my Congressional district. Today, I represent many small businesses and large companies who, despite a tough economy, are poised for success given a fair playing field. At Hickey Freeman, an iconic suit manufacturer founded in Rochester in 1889, the jobs of hundreds of loyal and hardworking employees are at risk due to proposed giveaways in TPP."
Representative Slaughter also renewed her push for legislation that would ensure that American manufacturers would have fair access to foreign markets. Next month, Slaughter will reintroduce the Reciprocal Markets Access Act, which would instruct U.S. trade negotiators to eliminate foreign market barriers before reducing U.S. tariffs and provide enforcement authority to reinstate the tariff if the foreign government does not honor its commitment to remove its barriers. This legislation would also instruct the International Trade Commission to conduct an assessment of the impact of a prospective trade agreement on market opportunities and barriers for U.S. products or services that will be impacted by the trade agreement.