Sunday, 1 May 2011

Nine Facts about the Korea-US FTA

This fact sheet was created and distributed by the Korean American for Fair Trade on May 2011, i.e., before the U.S. Congress approved the Korea-US FTA mid-October.


#1 The Korea-US FTA is a Bush legacy that pre-dates the financial crisis and contains many provisions that would further deregulate finance and banking at a time when we are still trying to build a sustainable, transparent and just economy. Why is Obama trying to pass a Bushera agreement that further deregulates our economy? 

#2 The Korea-US FTA’s dispute resolution clause allows investors in both countries to sue the other country’s government and courts for laws and rulings that impede their maximum profit. We saw this under NAFTA, when the state of California was sued by a Canadian transnational for banning a chemical deadly to humans and the environment. We cannot privilege investors over our democratic systems and our lives. 

#3 Because the FTA was signed under FastTrack authority, Congress can only vote Yes or NO on the FTA once it is introduced, and once passed, this FTA cannot be repealed. Unlike other bills, Congress cannot change the actual features of the trade deal. Meanwhile, corporate interests have been lobbying hard and spending millions to pass this deal quickly, without a larger debate among the American public or in the media. This is an undemocratic process where your voice must be heard. 

#4 While Obama argues that an increase in exports will lead to job growth, we only need look at NAFTA and the industries that benefit from the FTA to see that exports may not lead to jobs. We will be losing even more quality manufacturing jobs and replacing them, if at all, with low.wage service jobs. Independent think tank Economic Policy Institute estimated that the US would lose approximately 159,000 jobs through the Korea FTA, while 55,000 jobs would be lost through the Colombia-US FTA. 

#5 Worker rights and job security will be threatened in both countries. This is due to the Korea-US FTA’s ‘rule of origin’ provision, which allows up to 65% of the foreign materials in US or Korean goods to be exempt from tariffs and encourages the off.shoring of jobs. This means that American goods made elsewhere, such as in Mexican maquiladoras (factories in special economic zones intended to draw investors with lower taxes and fewer worker protections ), and Korean goods made in China would be largely and benefit the transnational corporations that are already profiting greatly from cheap labor. We cannot afford to further undermine worker protections and rights. 

#6 The FTA has been used to dismantle Korea’s environmental and public health laws, and in turn, threatens America’s future environmental policy. Through negotiations, Korea agreed to a side deal which overturned its 2000 law that kept genetically modified organisms (GMOs) out of Korea’s food supply. By 2008, Korea had approved 102 GMOs for import as feed or food, 70 percent from the U.S. firms Monsanto, Dupont and Dow Chemical. The Korean government also agreed to lower national emissions standards to accommodate the import of less fuel.efficient and more polluting U.S. vehicles. This would mean more greenhouse gases leading to global warming, more air pollution and related public health problems. The FTA also make the passage of future environmental conventions related to international trade more difficult because both countries would have to agree to them. 

#7 The KoreaUS FTA would devastate Korea’s farms and farmers and threaten Korea’s food security, while further filling the pockets of large US agribusinessesas American family farmers continue to be squeezed. Korea has only 4.2 million acres of farmland, compared with the US’s 434 million. The average farm size in Korea is 1.2 acres, compared with the U.S.’s 71 acres. If the FTA is implemented, it will force roughly half of Korean farmers off their land. In the US, the National Family Farm Coalition opposes the deal because only large U.S. agribusiness corporations will benefit. 

#8 If passed, the FTA would severely cripple or even dismantle Korea’s public healthcare system, and undermine the US’s chances of ever achieving universal health care or negotiating governmentset price controls. It overturns Korea’s existing laws, opens the door for U.S. pharmaceutical companies even further into Korea’s markets, and it extends patents up to 75 years, making it difficult for generic medications to reach the market and making it easier for U.S. pharmaceutical companies to sue generic drug manufacturers, even after a patent expires. 

#9 The FTA undercuts the democratic process in both countries. The FTA violates 169 Korean laws. To silence the opposition, the Lee administration in Korea has turned to authoritarian practices reminiscent of past dictatorships. It has used violent police force against peaceful gatherings protesting the FTA, banned public assembly against the FTA, and issued arrest warrants for more than 170 civil society leaders who organized against the trade deal. The Lee government has also blocked anti-FTA advertising from airing on TV while running its own pro-FTA commercials.