Members of Congress, Labor Leaders from U.S. and Korea Express Opposition to Proposed Free Trade Agreement
A bipartisan group of Congressmen and labor leaders from the United States and Korea today expressed their strong opposition to the proposed U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement.
The proposed agreement would exacerbate the U.S trade deficit with Korea ($14 billion in 2006), causing increased hardship for American workers, farmers, and ranchers.
It would give Korean automakers unfettered access to the U.S. market without requiring Seoul to dismantle its barriers that have kept the Korean market virtually closed to U.S. built automotive products. Last year, Korea exported 700,000 cars to the United States while U.S. carmakers sold only 4,000 in Korea.
The government of Korea recently stated that it expects the proposed free trade deal to boost its auto trade surplus with the U.S. by $1 billion annually. In March, a bipartisan group of Congressional leaders wrote President Bush asking him to include a proposal to open Korea's automotive market in any deal reached. Unfortunately, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab flatly rejected their proposal.
The barriers used by the Korean government to discourage the purchasing of imported vehicles include the threat of tax audits, accusations of being unpatriotic, and cascading tax penalties.
The proposed agreement has further implications for America's farmers and ranchers. It contains no guarantee that Korea will eliminate its ban on U.S. beef and denies U.S. rice farmers access to the Korean market. As a result, the USA Rice Federation and the National Cattleman's Beef Association are withholding their support.
Finally, Korea continues to have a troubling record on labor rights. As United Auto Workers Legislative Director Alan Reuther noted in his testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee, "There are restrictions on the freedom of association for public sector workers and other provisions in Korea's laws that limit the right to organize and bargain collectively."
"The Korea-U.S. FTA has been concluded with no regard for the mass opposition from the Korean people, their allies throughout Asia, and American organized labor and civil society," said Congressman Mike Michaud (D-ME), a former mill worker and union member. "If this agreement goes into effect, it will put the Korean people's health, culture, and environment at risk. The U.S.-Korea FTA will put thousands of good-paying U.S. manufacturing jobs at risk, particularly in the auto industry."
"I am deeply concerned about the trade deficit in this country. I care about American workers, and I have yet to see how these so-called free trade' agreements, from NAFTA on, have helped Americans," said Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC). "Since NAFTA was signed, my home state of North Carolina has lost over 200,000 manufacturing jobs. The U.S. as a whole has lost over 2.5 million manufacturing jobs. If our government does nothing but encourage the outsourcing of more U.S. jobs, there will be no hope for our economy down the road. It is time we focus on the American worker. To protect American sovereignty, American security, and American jobs - if the President sends Congress a U.S.-Korea FTA, Congress must defeat it."
"You cannot have fair trade when the core of an agreement is based on an uneven playing field," said Congressman Phil Hare (D-IL), a former textile worker and union leader. "Completely opening up our markets to Korean automakers while their government continues to take steps to deny U.S. imports is a slap in the face to struggling U.S. autoworkers. In the case of both Colombia and Korea, the position taken by the Bush Administration and the nations involved has been trust us,' when it comes key labor rights, competitiveness, and general fairness. With a record of failed trade policies that hurts workers at home and abroad, trust us' is just not good enough."
"Irresponsible trade policies have cost America jobs," said Congressman Bruce Braley (D-IA). "We need fair trade policies that are good for American workers, not trade policies that create an uneven playing field. Agreements that allow barriers to American agriculture and manufacturing are hardly fair.' It's time for a new direction on trade that ensures American workers are able to compete under the same set of rules as their foreign counterparts."