Article 43


Thursday, December 07, 2006


U.S., South Korea Near Free-Trade Talks

By Paul Blustein
Washington Post
January 26, 2006

The United States and South Korea are very close to launching NEGOTIATIONS for a free-trade agreement, which would be the most ECONOMICALLY SIGNIFICANT free-trade pact for Washington since the NORTH AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT, according to people familiar with the matter.

Officials in Washington and Seoul have been discussing the idea of a trade accord for more than a year, fueled by a mutual desire to deepen an already extensive commercial relationship. Two-way trade was $72 billion in 2004, making South Korea the United States’ seventh-largest trading partner. The United States is the second-largest market for Korean exports.

But both sides have been reluctant to start formal talks until they are reasonably confident that the negotiations would end in agreement. South Korea’s farmers are bitterly opposed to opening their country’s agricultural markets, and their political clout could scuttle a deal.

Most of the other countries the United States has free-trade pacts with have much smaller economies than South Korea and are thus much less important markets for U.S. products. They include Chile, Singapore, Jordan, Israel, Australia, Morocco, Bahrain, and the six countries in the CENTRAL AMERICA-DOMINICAN REPOUBLIC FREE TRADE AGREEMENT, which squeaked through Congress in July. For example, combined U.S. exports to the six CAFTA-DR countries were $15 billion in 2004, whereas exports to South Korea reached $26 billion.

Only the NAFTA countries—Canada and Mexico—surpass South Korea among current and likely free-trade partners as a market for U.S. exports. Canada bought $190 billion in U.S. products in 2004, and Mexico bought $110 billion.

Free-trade agreements have proliferated in recent years and involve a variety of provisions. The United States has generally insisted on eliminating or phasing out all tariffs and other impediments to bilateral trade, including agriculture, though it has sometimes allowed exceptions or long phase-out periods for a handful of products. Korea would certainly insist on maintaining some protections for its rice market, said Jeffrey J. Schott, a scholar at the Institute for International Economics who has written a book about the benefits of a U.S.-Korea deal.

A 2001 study by the U.S. International Trade Commission estimated that a U.S.-Korea free-trade agreement could increase U.S. exports to Korea by $19 billion and U.S. imports from Korea by $10 billion. As large as those numbers are, they would not have an appreciable impact on U.S. gross domestic product, which is in the $11 trillion range.

Although plans to launch the U.S.-Korea talks could still founder, officials and other sources who have spoken recently with negotiators said an announcement is likely to materialize before long. Asked about the prospects, one administration official replied, “How do you say ‘soon’ in Korean?” The source spoke on condition of anonymity because the final decision has not yet been made.

Rob Portman, the U.S. trade representative, heightened the speculation Friday when he told reporters, “We’ll be announcing some additional [free-trade agreement] partners soon. As I think you will notice, they will not be with small economies because I do think we need to move on to some larger economies.”

Yesterday, Neena Moorjani, a spokeswoman for Portman, said it was “premature” to say whether the formal talks with Korea would be launched.



U.S., South Korea Talk Free Trade Amid Sharp Protests

USA Today
July 10, 2006

SEOUL (AP) Top U.S. and South Korean negotiators acknowledged challenges Monday in concluding an ambitious free trade agreement that opponents want to stop, but they expressed confidence they can hammer out an accord.

“I’m not contemplating any prospect of failure,” Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler told reporters after the two sides began their first session in South Korea following a week of negotiations last month in Washington.

Cutler and her counterpart, South Korean trade diplomat Kim Jong-hoon, opened the scheduled five days of talks at a Seoul hotel, where about 3,000 riot police deployed outside amid demonstrations against the accord that aims to slash tariffs and other trade barriers between the two countries.

The endeavor faces strong resistance from South Korean labor groups, especially farmers who have protested against any reduction in protections for agriculture, particularly rice. The United States wants more access to South Korea’s agriculture, automobile and pharmaceuticals markets, among others.

Kim appeared cautious, saying that as the negotiations continue they naturally become harder.

“We’re in the second round now, so that means it’s more difficult,” he told the Associated Press. “It’s getting tougher and tougher. But we want to work constructively.”

The two sides aim to wrap up an agreement by the end of this year so they can submit it to their legislatures for debate and approval.

President Bush’s authority to “fast track” the trade deal ח enabling U.S. envoys to negotiate an agreement that can be submitted to Congress for a yes-or-no vote without amendments runs out in mid-2007.

Police expect about 50,000 protesters to take to the streets this week, while groups opposed to the talks hoped for numbers to top 100,000. The National Police Agency was mobilizing about 20,000 officers.

About 50 protesters, including some foreigners, clashed briefly with riot police in rainy weather in front of a gymnasium at the bottom of a winding road from the hilltop Shilla Hotel, the site of the talks.

The Korean Alliance Against the Korea-U.S. FTA ח which comprises 282 trade unions, political parties, agriculture organizations and non-government organizations called for an immediate end to the negotiations during a news conference near the hotel, said alliance official Kim Jin-il.

The South Korean government on Friday vowed stern measures if violence breaks out at any anti-free trade demonstrations, hinting that protesters breaking the law will face arrest.

Major protests are scheduled for Wednesday, including a partial strike by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, one of the county’s two major labor organizations.



Lou Dobbs Tonight
December 6, 2006

Free trade agreements were supposed to help this country’s middle class. Instead, they’ve killed millions of good-paying American jobs and creating even more disparity in wages between the poor and the wealthy.

Despite all of that, the Bush administration and corporate lobbyists, and now apparently members of both political parties in Congress, are embracing a trade deal that would be the largest since NAFTA. This week the United States is negotiating with South Korea about a free trade agreement that we’re once again told will create jobs by boosting American exports. Guess who’s lying and guess who loses again?

Kitty Pilgrim reports.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The U.S. beef industry is outraged at Korean behavior on trade. South Korea stopped U.S. beef shipments completely three years ago on the theoretical premise that any U.S. beef with bones in it might carry mad cow disease.

Trade was supposedly restored in September. But now the South Koreans rejected two shipments because they found bone fragments in it.

J. PATRICK BOYLE, AMERICAN MEAT INSTITUTE: The Koreans found bone fragments in one shipment of 20,000 pounds. They found a bone particle about the size of my pinky fingernail after looking for it for three weeks and subjecting the product to repeated x-rays. I mean, this is not indicative of a good-faith trading partner.

PILGRIM: On top of this, South Korea is pushing for a free trade agreement that would boost its exports to the United States.

There is currently $72 billion in trade between the two nations. But the Koreans ship $16 billion more to American consumers than the United States exports to them. That imbalance could get every worse.

THEA LEE, DIRECTOR, PUBLIC POLICY, AFL-CIO: Our negotiators always tell us they’re trying to increase U.S. exports and increase the number of jobs here in the United States every time they negotiate a new free trade agreement. And we often find out after the fact that we’ve just increased the ability for American companies, multinational corporations to ship jobs off shore.

PILGRIM: Another industry also at a disadvantage, autos. South Korea last year sent $11 billion worth of vehicles here, compared to less than a billion dollars worth the U.S. sent to South Korea.

U.S. negotiators in talks right now are pushing for a deal.

SUSAN SCHWAB, U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE: I am still confident that an agreement is within reach. But for an agreement to be sealed, we must work hard, be creative and make tough political decisions.

PILGRIM: Decisions that may not help American workers in the long run.


PILGRIM: Now, the fear is a future free trade agreement with South Korea would put U.S. industries such as auto manufacturing, apparel, and electronics under even more pressure—Lou.

DOBBS: And yet, the administration presses on, despite the fact that this country is now running 30 consecutive years of trade deficits.

Thank you very much. Kitty Pilgrim, from New York.


Posted by Elvis on 12/07/06 •
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