U.S. and Korean lawmakers call for big changes to trade agreement
When world leaders convene on Seoul next month for the G-20 Summit, trade policy experts are hoping that the United States and the South Korean government will be able to show that they’ve made progress in finalizing the terms of the long-suffering South Korea-U.S Free Trade Agreement. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) ...
When world leaders convene on Seoul next month for the G-20 Summit, trade policy experts are hoping that the United States and the South Korean government will be able to show that they've made progress in finalizing the terms of the long-suffering South Korea-U.S Free Trade Agreement.
When world leaders convene on Seoul next month for the G-20 Summit, trade policy experts are hoping that the United States and the South Korean government will be able to show that they’ve made progress in finalizing the terms of the long-suffering South Korea-U.S Free Trade Agreement.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) argues that the agreement, which was signed in 2007 but has not been approved by the United States, "would be the United States’ most commercially significant free trade agreement in more than 16 years" and would add $10 billion to $12 billion to annual U.S. GDP, and around $10 billion to annual merchandise exports to Korea. But the deal faces opposition from Congress, and especially from Democrats on Capitol Hill, who complain that it fails to address issues of Korean automotive surpluses and restrictions on Korean imports of American beef.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been pushing hard for the Obama administration to iron out the differences in advance of the G-20 meeting in November, which the president pledged to do when he met with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in June. But as the U.S. midterm elections approach, both Democratic and Republican candidates have staked out their opposition to the deal amid fears that it could send precious American jobs overseas.
On Monday, 21 U.S. lawmakers joined with 35 South Korea lawmakers to write to both presidents demanding significant changes in the agreement. "An FTA that prioritizes corporate interests over those of our constituents is not an agreement but a compromise of our countries’ ideals, and it is one we foresee working to defeat," the lawmakers wrote.
Congressman Mike Michaud (D-ME), chairman of the House Trade Working Group, said in a statement publicizing the letter, "Even beyond the market access issues for textiles, autos and beef, the current free trade agreement is based on the same failed NAFTA model and promises to ship U.S. jobs overseas."
The letter also calls on the agreement to better address issues of alleviating poverty, advocating social justice, advancing human rights, and protecting the environment.
On October 9, USTR put out a statement that the U.S. and the ROK had ""exchanged views relative to the US-Korea trade agreement," but neither side had offered a "formal" proposal. For some Korea observers, the United States’ reticence to announce progress in the ongoing discussions over the agreement sends a signal that the administration may not be able to show any concrete progress at the November Seoul Summit.
"Anodyne blather like this helps explain rising concern, if not cynicism, in some business and media circles that USTR is under such tight political constraints from the White House that even having a ‘framework’ ready for Obama and Lee to initial at the G-20 seems a long shot," Samuels International Vice President Chris Nelson wrote in his newsletter The Nelson Report.
"Certainly the Obama political pros are terrified of angering Labor activists who must turn out in large numbers if Nov. 2 is not to be a total disaster," continued Nelson, "and who can blame them?"
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin
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