The United States International Trade Commission (USITC) handed down two rulings this week that will result in more damage to U.S. manufacturing. It was determined that “no material damage” was done to U.S. manufacturers in a case regarding refrigerators manufactured in South Korea and Mexico, along with a case regarding steel wheels from China. In both cases, the Commerce Department had previously determined that the imported products in question were illegally subsidized. Free trade advocates claim it creates a level playing field, but that is clearly not the case.
Tag Archives: South Korea
Some free trade advocates misleadingly say that free trade deals put us on a level playing field with other countries. This is a view that proponents have tried to attach to the recently enacted Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS). Some who export to Korea even seem to think this is true. KORUS did remove some tariffs for American exporters, but it is far from a level playing field. Due to export limits and, more importantly, Korea’s 10 percent Value Added Tax (VAT), American exporters are still at a huge disadvantage. Meanwhile, South Korea obtained unfettered access to our economy. This will be yet another lopsided agreement that destroys American jobs.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk is scheduled to testify next week before the House Ways and Means Committee. Kirk will discuss the Obama administration’s trade goals for the year, and will report on progress the administration is making toward negotiating and implementing new agreements. Unfortunately, it appears that the topic of discussion will not be whether these agreements are well advised, but rather how fast they can be pushed through. If carried out, the Obama administration’s trade goals will only continue the pattern of job loss and economic decline.
One of the main topics of Kirk’s testimony will be the progress of the Trans-Pacific Partnership—the new multilateral trade agreement that is currently being negotiated behind closed doors. Congressman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) ,who chairs the panel, has said that now is the time to “move forward aggressively” on these negotiations. Camp says he fears falling behind other countries by not passing new agreements quickly enough. This is backwards thinking. The more the United States has pursued free trade, the more it has seen its manufacturing sector decline. With the decline in the manufacturing sector has come a general depression in wages and standard of living. Expecting anything different from new agreements shows a gross misunderstanding of the way these agreements are structured.
Kirk will also testify about the implementation of the trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia that were passed last year. The trade pact with South Korea, KORUS, is now set to go into effect on March 15th, but negotiations are ongoing for the other two. KORUS will be the most damaging of the three: the Economic Policy Institute calculated that this agreement alone will result in 159,000 lost jobs in the United States. All three of these agreements were negotiated by the Bush administration, then pushed through Congress by the Obama administration. Despite the ideological differences between the Bush and Obama administrations, they share a common thread in that they have worked for multinational corporations and against American workers on trade issues.
Despite the fact that President Obama campaigned on reforming NAFTA, he has been indistinguishable from his recent predecessors on trade issues. The fact that he campaigned on this issue signals that he recognizes its value to the country on some level, but he has chosen to serve the best interests of the businesses that profit from outsourcing and cheap labor rather than average Americans. This is an unacceptable choice that could bankrupt this country.
It is no secret that labor is cheaper overseas, and this makes it difficult for companies that produce in the United States to compete. Despite this fact, Whirlpool Corp. has been making an effort to expand its production in the U.S. That production could be in jeopardy due to alleged dumping of washing machines by South Korean companies such as LG and Samsung. This has caused Whirlpool to ask the U.S. government to impose duties on these companies’ imports to level the playing field and allow Whirlpool to continue manufacturing in the U.S.
In perhaps the most unlikely of places to take a victory lap after the passage of a long-stalled free trade agreement with South Korea, President Barack Obama took to Michigan to tout what he claims is the job creating effects of the trade deal.