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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Korean American @ Occupy Wall Street: "The FTA with S. Korea represents...exactly the types of agreements everyone at Wall Street is opposed to."

Democracy Now! interviews Korean-American, Columbian, and Panamanian fair trade advocates @ Occupy Wall Street - "Colombian, Korean and Panamanian Activists Condemn White House Support for New "Free Trade" Deals":
Organizers from Colombia, Panama and South Korea held a teach-in at Occupy Wall Street on Monday about "free trade agreements" now pending in Congress that will expand the market for national corporations and financial corporations from the United States.

"Essentially, it tries to institute once more the things that caused this financial crisis in the first place," says Sukjong Hong, an organizer with Nodutdol for Korean Community Development.

"It also opens the door to outsourcing more American jobs." Carlos Salamanca, member of AFSCME Local 372, adds that the Colombian free trade agreement is "the continuation of what’s going on in Colombia, supporting the government who are not doing anything to stop the killing of workers in Colombia, the union members, the human rights activists, and the persecution against the indigenous and Afro-Colombians’ leadership over there."

AMY GOODMAN: We’re here in Freedom Plaza, just around the corner from Wall Street, and a teach-in just finished up with three people who are here from three different countries talking about so-called free trade agreements. Why don’t you introduce yourselves and talk about where you’re from?...

SUKJONG HONG: Hi. My name is Sukjong Hong. And I’m with Nodutdol for Korean Community Development and an organization that’s national called Korean Americans for Fair Trade. And I’m a second-generation Korean American.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re here in Freedom Plaza, just around the corner from Wall Street, and a teach-in just finished up with three people who are here from three different countries talking about so-called free trade agreements. Why don’t you introduce yourselves and talk about where you’re from?

...SUKJONG HONG: Hi. My name is Sukjong Hong. And I’m with Nodutdol for Korean Community Development and an organization that’s national called Korean Americans for Fair Trade. And I’m a second-generation Korean American.

SUKJONG HONG: Yes. Well, for myself and many Americans who are also tied to Korea, the free trade agreement with South Korea represents this—exactly the types of agreements that everyone here at Wall Street is opposed to.

Basically, it bans the limit on the size of financial institutions. It bans any limit on capital flows. It bans deregulation—it bans any regulation on derivatives. So, essentially, it tries to institute once more the things that caused this financial crisis in the first place. And it also opens the door to outsourcing more American jobs.

And it has caused a lot of depressing of the standards of life and of the laws in South Korea, as well. They had to lower their emissions standards. They had to lift their ban on GMOs...Basically, a lot of the laws that both Americans and Koreans have fought for are going to be—basically become meaningless in the face of these free trade agreements.

And just last week, 10,000 people in South Korea went to the streets to protest these free trade deals. But both governments seem very intent on pressing forward. And I think not enough Americans know about the damage that these free trade agreements will cause, and really not really looking even in their own backyard at what NAFTA has done.
Read the rest of the interview with Carlos Salamanca from Columbia and Sunyata Altenor from Panama (who describe how these FTAs are related to the persecution and killings of human and labor rights advocates and indigenous people in Columbia; and the unrestrained exploitation of natural resource and worker in Panama) here.

More from Kristen Beifus and Christa Hillstrom at Yes!: "The Tricks of the Trade Deals: This week, Congress will vote on three Free Trade Agreements that are predicted to kill jobs and solidify corporate power. It's our turn to have a say in how we trade.:
Last week, President Obama submitted to Congress no fewer than three "hangover" free trade agreements (FTA's) originally negotiated by the Bush administration. All three bills have been widely opposed by labor organizations, environmental groups, human rights activists, and others for their strong likelihood of offshoring U.S. jobs, further deregulating the corporate sector, hurting the livelihoods of farming communities, and ignoring labor and environmental standards and human rights. They are expected to be voted on Wednesday.

Since negotiations on it first began, more than 700,000 South Koreans have protested the largest of the three pending agreements, the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement, or KORUS...

Right now, tens of thousands of Americans—from New York to Seattle to St. Louis—are in the streets for a related reason: standing up to the control corporations have over the political process. Perhaps nowhere is this manipulation better exemplified than in the realm of global trade.

In the past 20 years, the U.S. has consistently instated international trade policies that secure the “rights” of corporations over those of workers and indigenous communities; that protect intellectual property, but not farmers' land, workers' health, or communities' water and air; that appropriate taxpayer money to bolster industries that shift production overseas, leaving a wake of unemployment at home...

But human rights concerns under KORUS reach further.

About 40 miles north of Seoul, and 10 miles over the border with North Korea, is a complex of sweatshops where 44,000 North Korean workers labor in factories for as little as 25 cents an hour—about half of which is directly paid to the North Korean state. This, the Kaesong Industrial Complex, is a South Korean free trade zone, where 120 corporations like Hyundai use disgracefully cheap labor to manufacture products intended for export—exports that may soon enter the U.S. duty-free. On top of that, KORUS' "Rule of Origin" states that fully two-thirds of a product can be made outside of the country and still have the label "Made in Korea," and enter the U.S. without tariffs...

We need to continue to build and nourish natural alliances—across industries, across countries, across unions; between faith, farm, and migrant communities; among students and small and medium businesses—so our voices are at the decision-making table ensuring that trade policy benefits our communities...

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