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Teach-in on Korean FTA discusses dangers

The investor protection clause in the Korean-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) - now pending in Congress - could be the biggest boon for big business since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and could clear the way for similar agreements with Colombia and Panama.
On June 26, President Barack Obama said he would take steps toward ratifying the Korean agreement, which the Bush administration negotiated in 2007. The agreement is set to increase exports and jobs in certain sectors of the US economy. At the same time, however, imports will also increase and the US trade deficit with Korea will grow.

Arthur Stamoulis from the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign, hosting a panel discussion on KORUS on Oct. 7, cited estimates that the FTA could double the trade deficit and eliminate over 800,000 US jobs.

The discussion featured David Delk, a trade activist, Portland State University professor Barbara Dudley and Mitch Besser, an unemployed software engineer.

Delk spoke about the investor protection agreements in KORUS and past FTAs. The investor protection agreement under the Central American FTA has allowed the mining company Pacific Rim to sue the government of El Salvador over environmental laws the company claims inhibit its ability to make adequate profits.

The mine in question in the suit, located along the country's major river, is just one of 29 sites in El Salvador operated by Pacific Rim.

Investor protection allows multinational corporations to challenge the sovereignty of states. Enacting laws to promote the livability of the planet could be beholden to profit margins.

But Barbara Dudley pointed out that investor protection could go beyond environmental degradation. The General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) has expanded to include services, including financial services.

The current financial collapse is the result of deregulation of the US financial market. Now, there have been calls for oversight. FTAs, though, could give signatories excuses not to regulate, possibly leading to further financial meltdowns.

Mitch Besser spoke next, sharing his experience of having his job outsourced to China.

KORUS, like all other FTAs, is a horrible, potentially disastrous idea. But there has been resistance to its ratification. The Korean teachers' union has led a 10-day strike that prompted the entire cabinet, which advises the president, to offer their resignations.

Stamoulis from the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign said that if opposition in the United States can hold off Congressional approval of the agreement, it may be dead in the water by June 2011, the start of presidential election season.

He urged members of the audience to contact Sen. Ron Wyden, who chairs the subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness.

Free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama are next in line for ratification.

Video Follow up of This Event 12.Oct.2010 19:08

Jim Lockhart jglockhart@comcast.net

David Delk, who was one of the presenters at this event, appeared on the Public Access program, "A Growing Concern," the following evening, October 8, 2010.

A Growing Concern: the Korea Free Trade Agreement

On the hour long program, David talks about Free Trade Agreements in general and the Korea FTA in particular. David is a member of Portland Alliance for Democracy and speaks at length about the usurpation of Democracy by Corporations, citing examples of Corporations suing governments for infringing on their ability to make profits.

Also featured are video clips from the Thursday event. The clip of Barbara Dudley gives her entire presentation and, in the other clip, a displaced high tech worker, Mitch Besser, relates his experience with an Oregon company outsourcing the majority of its workers to China.

Individual video clips of all the speakers will be posted to YouTube and Portland Indymedia by the end of the week.

US Government Accountability Office Report casts doubts on Free Trade Agreements 07.Nov.2010 21:36

David Roknich

On October 22nd, 2010 the US GAO issued a report on the agency that is supposed to evaluate our trade agreements. The US International Trade Commision is supposed to guard against unfair trade practices, and in the past, they have been relied on to evaluate the impact of pending FTAs.

Wikipedis reports that "On June 26, 2010, Presidents Obama and Lee stated that they would direct their governments to resolve remaining obstacles to the agreement by November 2010." President Obama will be arriving in Seoul on November 11th, with hopes of concluding the deal. If he returns home with a signed agreement, it will still need to be ratified before it can take effect.

For the past 5 years, they have been without an Inspector General, in violation of federal law. During that 5 years, the IG Act was reformed, and the reforms of this agency have only begun in recent months. In fact, their mission statement as it appears on their website has been rewritten this year.

Historically, they (the USITC) have underestimated the impact of trade agreements on US employment. According to the Economic Policy Institute:

In 1999, it estimated that China's entry into the World Trade Organization would increase the U.S. trade deficit with China by only $1.0 billion, and have no significant impact on U.S. employment. In fact, the U.S. trade deficit with China increased by $185 billion between 2001 (when China entered the WTO) and 2008, and 2.4 million U.S. jobs have been displaced or lost.

For the Korean FTA, the USITC estimates the effect on jobs will be zero, and that our balance of trade will improve by US$4 Billion. The Congressional Research Service offers a similar projection on page 5 of the report in my 3rd attached upload.

The Economic Policy Institute projects a loss of 159,000 US jobs and an increased trade deficit of US$16.7 Billion.

In view of the historical failure of the US ITC, and the fact that legally required oversight has not been restored, we should ask that all pending FTAs be put on hold.

I may have more to say about this, but I haven't had time to start an article about this on DOGSPOT. Glad to see you are working on this. It looks like a bad deal at this time, and that is also the opinion of the Korean workers who are out in the streets of Seoul protesting right now.

So here are the docuements I have, in case you haven't seen them.

First is a summary of the GAO report, then the whole 25 pages. The final document is the Congressional Research Service report.

David Roknich

This deal has failed - Bush had planned FTAs for all Asian countries. 11.Nov.2010 18:01

David Roknich

latest news is that no agreement could be reached.

We can only hope that future FTAs will receive close scrutiny.
My apologies that the 3 docs I promised don't have labels, but they can indeed be downloaded from the little icons in my last comment.