WTO Doha Round: Cranking up the Deficit
Lori Wallach on the Korea FTA

Strong Demand for a Fix to Korea FTA

Since Obama’s announcement that he plans to move forward with Bush’s Korea FTA, a chorus of groups have called for fundamental changes to the pact as written.

And what has everyone riled up goes far beyond the oft-cited auto and beef issues. In order for Obama to get Congress and the American public to support this FTA, he’s also going to have to fix the investment and financial services provisions, among other things.

Here’s a selection of quotes from news stories about the Korea FTA that have come out over the last couple of weeks:


“Some Democrats and consumer activists have protested the pact over concerns with the financial services title of the bill that they say encourages the same deregulation policies that led to the recession.”

- Congress Daily, “Envoys Make Case To Continue Work On Agreements,” 7/15/10

“Since Obama and Lee's June 26 announcement, groups such as the AFL-CIO labor federation and Public Citizen have raised concerns about investment, financial services trade and other provisions of the pact they say also need to be fixed.”

- Reuters, “S.Korea open to ‘creative’ fix for US autos, beef,” 7/14/10

“The stated focus on only narrow changes to the FTA puts the administration at odds with a number of FTA critics, including the AFL-CIO and members of the House Trade Working Group who are on record with a broad range of objections. A union source said …the extent of the political fight that will break out over the U.S.-Korea FTA…will depend on the substance of the improvements that the administration can obtain.”

- Inside U.S. Trade, “Administration Signals Limited Auto, Beef Fixes For U.S.-Korea FTA,” 7/2/10

“Critics of a trade pact negotiated with South Korea by President George W. Bush are beginning to make clear how difficult it will be for the Obama administration to forge an acceptable compromise by November's Group of 20 summit meeting. … The negotiations would likely have to go further than just beef and autos to satisfy influential blocs in the Democratic party. Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch division, said Sunday the deal would deregulate financial services and investor protections, which would be at cross purposes with the just-finalized financial regulatory overhaul bill. ‘If the administration wants to obtain broad support on what may well be its first trade vote, it will need to fix more than beef and auto trade problems, because they have inherited a leftover Bush Korea trade pact text that includes the same outrageous foreign investor rights as NAFTA plus the strongest dose of financial deregulation ever contained in a U.S. trade pact,’ Wallach said. Two weeks ago, in a Detroit speech to the UAW, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka gave a preview of what is to come should the White House push the Korea deal. ‘In our new economy, this fight is global. We cannot ease off the fight against trade agreements that favor Wall Street over workers throughout the world,’ he said. ‘And that means the South Korea-U.S. trade deal. The days of trade agreements that protect the rights of wealthy investors and neglect the rights of workers and our environment must be over.’”

- Congress Daily, “Korea Deal Expected To Get Bumpy Ride,” 6/28/10

“Leading labor unions, including those represented by the AFL-CIO, have made it clear that the administration has to go beyond the areas of automobiles and beef in terms of changes to the U.S.-Korea FTA. These unions have also stressed to the administration that the labor community is unified in opposing the Korea FTA as it now stands, sources said. Labor sources this week argued that absent substantial and far-reaching changes, the administration will face unified and fierce opposition from the labor community. … AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued a statement last week urging the administration to seek changes in the areas of investment, services and procurement.”

- Inside U.S. Trade, “Critics Seek Details On Extent, Nature Of Possible Korea FTA Changes,” 7/9/10

“It now has Obama's support, but his party still shows little enthusiasm ahead of November's congressional elections. Labor unions and other core Democratic supporters say foreign trade agreements steal American jobs. That puts Obama in the unusual position of relying on help from Republicans, who have opposed in near-perfect unison his biggest initiatives, including his overhauls of health care and financial regulations. … The Democratic backlash was quick. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., expressed surprise that Obama would ‘try to slide this poorly written trade deal past the American public when Congress has already said that the deal is not good for our economy or workers.’”

- Associated Press, “Democrats uneasy on US-SKorea deal,” 7/3/10

“US President Barack Obama is risking a revolt within his own party as he presses ahead on a free trade agreement with South Korea, setting the stage for a showdown after November legislative elections. Organized labor, a critical support base for Obama's Democratic Party, and several Democrats have already vowed to fight the deal which they say would hurt workers. … Obama himself criticized the deal as a senator.”

- Agence France-Presse, “Obama risks party showdown on S.Korea deal,” 7/3/10

“The sudden timeline for wrapping up the agreement set off a firestorm among Democrats…who say the president first needs to endorse legislation that ensures equal market opportunities for American workers. For Democratic trade critics, Obama's free trade push runs contrary to his talk during the Democratic primaries of getting tough on trade agreements and adds to already sky-high anxieties over jobs in their districts.”

- Roll Call, “Democrats Won't Rubber-Stamp South Korea Trade Deal,” 7/4/10

President Barack Obama has angered unions by picking an election-year battle with organized labor over trade. … ‘We don't think it's a good move economically or politically,’ said Thea Lee, a trade lobbyist for the AFL-CIO. … Labor argues the trade agreement will exacerbate problems in the U.S. economy and lead to the elimination of more U.S. manufacturing jobs. … The groups have a strong ally in Rep. Sandy Levin, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. … On Saturday, he blasted the Korean deal for not addressing regulatory and tax barriers that have led to one-way trade with South Korea and hurt the U.S. industrial sector.”

- The Hill, “South Korean trade deal pits Obama against labor base,” 7/1/10

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Thomas Smith from eBSI Export Academy

Thanks for this I will refer to our International Trade Specialist students as it is a good example case study on the public perception of trade policy.

While we tend more to focus on the nuts and bolts of how to export, we also like our students to have a broader perspective on trade and its benefits/risks.


Thomas Smith
Operations Director

eBSI Export Academy
Online International Trade Courses

IFC FIT Initiative
Finance of International Trade program from the IFC

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