South Korea: The Next ‘Free Trade’ Battleground
GEMMA: Times are tough; isn’t this a pro-business agreement that’ll give the economy a boost?
FLETCHER: Depends what kind of businesses you’re talking about. If you’re talking about multi-national corporations that have no loyalty to the U.S. and call themselves “American” just to get in the door on Capitol Hill, then sure. These people don’t give a fig about American decline. Neither do the big retailers like Wal-Mart, who now mainly sell imported goods. But if you’re talking about Main Street business or the kind of small and medium-sized manufacturing companies that still produce in the U.S., no it’s not pro-business at all.
GEMMA: Won’t it benefit the U.S. to eliminate the Korean tariffs on U.S. goods?
FLETCHER: On paper, yes, sure. But in reality, we’ve been through these games with over a dozen other nations before, and it always seems to turn out that the U.S. actually respects its market-opening agreements, while foreign nations game the system. How many times do we have to get burned before we learn? A big part of the problem is that many foreign trade barriers are not tariffs, or indeed any formal legal barrier at all—they’re covert policies and understandings that foreign governments have with their own corporations which enable them to keep out American goods without violating the letter of any treaty they sign with us.
GEMMA: Would this treaty somehow threaten U.S. sovereignty as some claim?
FLETCHER: The issue is the WTO [World Trade Organization], because our Constitution says treaties are the supreme law of the land—overriding our right to make our own laws on environmental standards, worker safety, and anything else.
I've only quoted part of the interview. The entire thing is worth reading, at least it was for me.
GEMMA: Who opposes this agreement?
FLETCHER: A majority of the public is now against more free trade agreements. The Korea FTA is opposed by much of the President’s own party, many trade unions, and some Republicans, like Ron Paul (TX) and Walter Jones (NC) who don’t consider this trade agreement genuine free trade. A recent poll even showed most Tea Party sympathizers against free trade agreements. Also Main Street businesses and the domestic manufacturing community. Even the official U.S. International Trade Commission says it will increase America’s trade deficit.
GEMMA: Who supports this agreement?
FLETCHER: President Obama and the Republican Congressional leadership. Multinational corporations and their clubs, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. And the big retail chains like Wal-Mart.
GEMMA: ... We lost the NAFTA fight in similar circumstances. Unless there is early and strong grass roots opposition, the treaty will sneak though under “fast track” maneuvers in the House. The encouraging news however, is that a coalition is being formed to oppose it: the AFL-CIO, Republican Congressmen Ron Paul, consumer advocate Ralph Nader, and Donald Trump have all found common ground in opposing the Korea Free Trade deal.