You’ll be hearing a lot about a Korean Free Trade Agreement in the next few days. Negotiators are finalizing last-minute changes to the Korea Free Trade Agreement before President Obama arrives in Seoul Thursday for the G20 and to meet with President Lee Myung-bak.
President Obama hopes that increasing exports will help restore American jobs. But the Korean agreement was negotiated under President Bush, and came out typically one-sided against American manufacturers and workers. According to those who will be most affected, including auto companies like Ford (see Ford’s statement on this), unions like the UAW and agricultural interests like American beef producers the negotiated agreement does little to address non-tariff barriers Korea uses to protect its industries from competing at home with American goods. If the Korea agreement remains one sided, without addressing many non-trade barriers, the result will be more exports to Korea, but many, many more imports from Korea, with a net loss of American jobs.
The Obama administration has been negotiating for changes that bring a more open Korean market for American automobiles and beef. However Korea is fighting to maintain regulatory restrictions that reduce our market access. Korean says they have concerns – right or wrong – about mad cow disease in cows, and the fuel economy and emissions of American cars. But Korea also understands that “if only economic elements are considered” they come out ahead. The President and companies like Ford want the other barriers reduced.
The Korean Dong-A Ilbo reports, Concessions Deemed Inevitable in FTA Negotiations
The U.S. pressed Korea to remove non-tariff barriers on cars Monday as it did in the assistant secretarial meeting Thursday through Sunday. Seoul claimed that more requests are unacceptable given public opinion in Korea, stressing its concession in fuel regulation.
… Though President Lee can minimize coordination of the negotiations by accepting certain U.S. requests, he could face criticism from opposition parties for “disgraceful diplomacy” in the course of ratification. If Korea wants to gain something for making concessions, however, the meeting should become larger to the level of renegotiation despite shortage of time.
So we’ll see.
What The Public Thinks
The 2010 election voters do not want more one-sided NAFTA-like “free trade” agreements, want to see a revival of American manufacturing, and want our government to stop giving tax breaks and subsidies to the big corporations that outsource jobs.
Last week Democracy Corps released a survey of voters done for Campaign for America’s Future. They talked to 1000 voters who had voted in 2008. This sample included 114 who decided not to vote in 2010. “The survey shows that voter fears about the economy drove this election, as well as deep anger at the failure of government to make it work for middle class families, even as Wall Street got bailed out.”
A key finding: 59% of swing voters agree with the message “Challenge countries like China that are taking our jobs, end subsidies to corporations that send jobs abroad, stop passing NAFTA-like trade deals and develop a national strategy for making things in America and exporting goods, not jobs – contrasted with 28% agreeing with a message about increasing exports with more trade deals and “get government out of the way” (See slide 55)