Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tim Shorrock: "Korea-US Trade Agreement: The Hidden History"

(Photo: Korea Policy Institute)

Despite widespread opposition from family farmer, labor, human rights, environmental, and Korean American groups, the US House of Representatives (in the wake of K Street's expensive lobbying for Seoul's and Wall Street's 1%) overrode the interests of the 99% and approved KORUS (the US-South Korea FTA) last night.

Main Street Americans have shifted their focus to the Senate...

Immediately after the House vote, Tim Shorrock posted this analysis (originally published at Foreign Policy in Focus in 2007) "Korea-US Trade Agreement: The Hidden History" which reveals the interconnections of U.S. military and economic neo-colonialism in a nation where the majority of people have challenged both for six decades:
The pact was approved along with treaties with Panama and Columbia – but those agreements pale against KORUS, which is the largest trade deal passed since NAFTA was signed by President Clinton in 1995

In fact, KORUS represents a major victory for U.S. multinational corporations, banks and financial institutions, which have lobbied intensively for the pact for more than half a decade. It’s also a major setback for Korean and American unions.

Raw Deal Between Washington and Seoul (April 2007)

The South Korean-U.S. free trade agreement (KORUS) cannot be seen apart from U.S.-South Korean security ties, the presence in South Korea of more than 30,000 U.S. troops and a 50-year economic relationship that has been heavily weighted towards American interests. From this perspective, KORUS is the fourth attempt by the United States to force its economic will on South Korea over the past half-century.The trade deal still has to pass in South Korea, where Lee does not enjoy widespread support. Among numerous questionable policies, Lee initiated the environmentally massively destructive "Four Rivers" construction project (he is compared to 1970's-era Japanese prime minister Kakuei Tanaka for his use of public office to push through construction boondoggles) and has contravened democratic process to force the seizure and demolition of private property on Jeju island, a World Natural Heritage Site, to make way for a naval base.
Sakai Tanaka's "How Long Will US Forces Continue to Occupy Japan and Korea? China, the US and the New Division of Power in the Asia-Pacific" published at The Asia-Pacific Journal last year also takes a close look at the wider geopolitical and military contexts of KORUS.

More perspectives from the broad spectrum of American groups opposing KORUS:

• Environmentalists: "Friends of the Earth denounces passage of unjust trade agreements: President Obama broke his campaign promises in backing Bush-era trade pacts that repeat mistakes of NAFTA" (Oct. 13, 2011)

• Traditional Conservatives: "Why Conservatives Should Oppose KORUS Part I: Sovereignty" (Conservative Times, Feb. 17, 2011)

• Unions: "South Korea ‘Free Trade’ Deal: Another Funnel for Exploitation" (In These Times, June 3, 2011)

• Korean American organizations: "Why We Must Oppose the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement" ( Korea Policy Institute, May 25, 2011)

• Peace and Social Justice advocates: "Legal protest dispersed during S.Korea-U.S. summit: Secret Service shuts down protest of KORUS FTA and Jeju naval base in front of the White House" (The Hankyoreh, Oct. 17, 2011):
According to John Feffer, co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, the fates of the U.S. and South Korea are more interconnected than most realize.

“The United States and South Korea are celebrating the passage of the [free trade agreement] and a very close military alliance,” said Feffer, who attended Thursday’s protest. “But the relationship between the two leaders conceals a number of unfortunate failings: a trade agreement that will throw a lot of workers out of jobs, a shared North Korea policy that has done nothing to improve peace and security on the peninsula, and a project to build a naval base at Jeju that will further jeopardize regional stability. What many observers have called a win-win set of U.S.-South Korea deals has actually been lose-lose for a lot of people in the region. And that’s what people were protesting in D.C. during Lee’s visit.”
• Family Farmers: "Korea US Free Trade Agreement Another Cash Cow for Corporations" (, April 11, 2011)

Short investigative report on corporate media coverage of the FTAs with South Korea, Columbia, and Panama: "Bait-and-Switch Boosterism on Trade Pacts" (Janine Jackson, FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), Oct. 13, 2011):
What else but blind faith would allow a story to carry a line like one in the October 12 New York Times, about textile industry opposition to the new deal with South Korea: "The production of shirts and sheets has shifted steadily from the United States to countries with lower-cost labor. Economists argue that this process strengthens the economy as companies and workers shift to more productive and lucrative kinds of work." Of course, if the Times has evidence of laid off textile workers' mass movement to more lucrative work, they're sitting on the scoop of the century...

Then you get a line, like that in the October 13 New York Times, once the deals have passed and been heralded as a "rare moment of bipartisan accord," that "the passage of the trade deals is important primarily as a political achievement, and for its foreign policy value in solidifying relationships with strategic allies. The economic benefits are projected to be small."
Also see more at this compilation post: "Worse than NAFTA: S. Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) would hurt U.S. & S. Korean small farmers and workers; Burmese, N. Korean slave laborers" (TTT, June 21, 2011)

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