Alliance for Democracy

Korea “Free” Trade Agreement: Say No!

Posted in CAFTA, Investor Protection Clauses, investor protections, NAFTA, South Korea Free Trade Agreement, UAW, UFCW, Uncategorized by Alliance for Democracy Portland OR on December 9, 2010

By now most of you realize that President Obama has gone backward on his campaign promise to look at the effects of past “free trade” agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Central American Free Trade Agreement and renegotiate them.  This renegotiation promise was part of his campaign of hope, which all people now realize, if they didn’t during the campaign, was for public consumption to get the vote but was not to be taken seriously as a guide for future action.

 President Bush negotiated four “free” trade agreements but was only able to present one to Congress.  Congress approved the agreement with Peru but the other three, with Panama, Columbia and South Korea, occupied pocket space never to be presented to Congress for votes during Bush’s term, passing to Obama’s pocket upon his assumption of the Presidency.

Early during Obama’s term, progressives and populists hoped that he would support the TRADE Act of 2010 (HR 3012), which followed along the lines of his campaign jargon.  But last week all hope was lost when his administration announced that agreement between the United States and South Korea had been reached with just some slight modifications to the agreement.

Official American objections to the original agreement centered on cows and cars – that is, Korean limitations on imports of American cows due to fears of mad cow disease were to continue, and not enough had been done to allow increases in the number of American cars imported into Korea.

Now the US and Korea have announced a modified agreement, eliminating the objections regarding the cars.  With much fanfare, the administration claimed that with with agreement much-needed jobs would be created in America exporting cars and other goods.  Note was not made that all past “free trade” agreements have resulted in net jobs losses.  Must have slipped their minds.



In the “unofficial” America, other objections to the agreement have been voiced.

Most importantly, this agreement has the same investor-protection (IP) provisions contained in NAFTA’s  Chapter 11.  And CAFTA had these provisions.  In fact, all the “free trade” agreements (except that with Australia) have investor-protection provisions.

IP provisions say that if a foreign company decides that it has been adversely affected by laws or regulations of the host country, whether  from the national, state or local government (i.e., the government has decided to rule in the public’s interest and impose some kind of restriction on the multi-national corporation), then that corporation can bring suit in an international trade tribunal, asking that the rule or law been rescinded or that the “loss” profit be paid.

Note that a domestic corporation would not have the same right; this provision creates a special position for the foreign multi-national to sue and recover “lost” profits or prevent the law or regulation from being enforced.

It is different with Korea


Unlike the nations party to past “free trade” agreement, South Korea has a fully developed economy, an economy eager to make investments in the United States.  In fact, between 2001 and 2007, it invested in excess of $15 billion in the US including here in Oregon.  Public Citizen has identified 85 Korean multi-national corporations in the United States.  Any one of these could bring suit against the United States if this agreement is enacted.

Because Korea is a mature economy, it is ready to invest and it wants to invest in the United States. Each such investment can be the basis for challenges to our laws and regulations.   And each challenge undermines our government’s ability to govern in our interest.

The usual suspects sign-on to the agreement


There was a virtual stampede of corporate and union interests to endorse this agreement. In a press release dated 12-4-10, the White House released statements of support for the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement.  Supporting statements were released by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senator John Kerry. Senator Maria Cantwell, Senator Saxby Chambliss, Senator Jim Webb, AT&T, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), American Meat Institute, The American Automotive Policy Council (AAPC), Walmart, Ernst & Young, National Pork Producers, The Recording Industry Association of America, and the Entertainment Industry Coalition.  Read the statements


In addition to those, supporter include the United Auto Workers, US Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, Amway, and the Financial Services Roundtable (Big Bank lobby group).  Notably quiet were the unions except for the UAW.  Unions have traditionally been strong voices in opposition but this time they seem to be remaining quiet. Read more on


. In addition to the UAW support, the UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) issued a statement praising the 20,000 jobs which are projected to be created in exporting American meat. As of now the AFL-CIO has not issued a statement.  We would usually have expected a 

What to do


Let your family and friends know about this threat to American democracy, the environment and to our jobs.

Print and sign the petition on the Alliance for Democracy website.  Just sign it yourself or get some friends to sign it as well.  Then mail it back to us at the address on the petition.

Call Senator Wyden.  Senator Wyden is the chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Trade.  This committee will be the first to have hearings on the agreement when it is introduced into Congress.  He needs to hear that you don’t want any more NAFTA/CAFTA style “free trade” agreements.  His phone number is 503.326.7525. 

Then contact your other US Representatives and Senators to voice your concern about this agreement.

Print the flyers from the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign and available on the Alliance for Democracy website.  Click here for each: Environment, Financial, Investment and Job Loss 

Lastly, watch the


and forward the links of the Korea Free Trade Agreement Teach-in which we had in Portland a couple months ago. These are highly informative.  Each one is just 10 minutes long and feature Prof. Barbara Dudley, Arthur Stamiolus (Director of the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign), David Delk (President, Alliance for Democracy) and Mitch Besser (Hi-tech worker unemployed due to other “free trade” agreements. 

One more thing to do:  Forward this email.


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