Last Friday, Representatives came home for their "in-district work week." With rumors circulating that the South Korea Free Trade Agreement (the biggest agreement of its kind since NAFTA) will soon be brought to the floor for Congressional approval, now is the time to act! In order to stop its passage, and the set of free trade agreements that will likely follow, we must make it clear that it is wildly unpopular and will cost far too many votes. Please join our call in day on Feb. 27th. (A call-in script can be found below.) Even better, talk to your Representative in person while she or he is in your community. Go to a Congress on Your Corner, make an appointment with your district office, attend an evening forum -- wherever you have the opportunity, make your Representative understand that there is a high political cost if he or she supports KORUS or the Colombia and Panama Free Trade Agreements that are sure to follow if KORUS passes.
Call In Script
Find information for you Congressperson here and be sure to click to find their local (rather than DC) number.
Visit or Call your local Congressperson today and tell them that:
I urge you to reject any attempts to pass the KORUS Free Trade Agreement with South Korea. Free Trade Agreements are unpopular across the political spectrum and elected officials who support KORUS will certainly alienate voters, including me. Polls by the Wall Street Journal and Pew Research Center show that over 60% of both Tea Party sympathizers and union members oppose FTAs. KORUS would be the biggest FTA since NAFTA, and is just as bad for working families. I strongly oppose it and the Colombia and Panama FTAs that are also pending. I urge Rep. _________ to do so as well.
KORUS is highly controversial in both South Korea and the US, and has been the source of major demonstrations in South Korea. Despite the positive spin some members of both parties are trying to put on the agreement, Americans have not been fooled.
There are a number of particularly troublesome parts of the measure. The labor community has largely rejected the agreement due to its poor standards. Environmentalists are appalled at the US efforts to lower environmental and safety standards. Oddly, one of the only reasons many Democrats had hesitated to pass the agreement was due to "non-tariff barriers to trade." In this case that actually meant that South Korea had too high of standards for car and food safety, as well as miles per gallon auto standards for the US to compete. Now that the Obama administration has negotiated for South Korea to lower its car safety and emissions standards for US automobiles, the administration is ready to push the bill through. Clearly, this agreement is another example of a labor and environmental race to the bottom.
We should all be irate over clauses allowing the World Bank and UN tribunals to allow South Korean companies to sue to the US government (or US companies to sue South Korea) for "lost profits," should local regulations impede their financial gains. This bill will actually create a net job loss in the US, where we are already suffering from staggering unemployment rates. The US International Trade Commission (one of free trade's biggest cheerleaders) says that the agreement will increase the trade deficit with SK (meaning a net loss of jobs.) Cumulatively, the Economic Policy Institute estimates that it will costs the US 159,000 jobs in the next 5 years as a net loss. Moreover, the jobs lost will mostly be in high end manufacturing and electronics, while the jobs gained will be in low paying sectors such as cattle production.
The KORUS FTA is detrimental to US and Korean workers. It forces South Korea to lower its environmental and safety standards, and exposes our tax-payers to possibly having to pay claims in United Nations or World Bank tribunals by Korean companies alleging "lost profits" based on our environmental or labor laws. Moreover, the U. S. International Trade Commission has predicted that KORUS will actually increase the US trade deficit. The Economic Policy Institute maintains that KORUS will make the US trade deficit with Korea twice as bad, up to $26.9 billion annually within seven years. This will result in 888,000 jobs lost as a result of Korean imports. If one figures in employment created by increased US exports and jobs lost because of the already existing deficit with South Korea, there are some 200,000 jobs that will be lost.
The administration has failed to live up to its promises for true reform. Instead they have framed this detrimental agreement as a victory. The majority of us, however, do not see this agreement in that light. We are tired of failed NAFTA-style trade agreements that have cost us so many jobs, and will continue to do so in these tough economic times.