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Fair Trade Needed Now More Than Ever

September 27, 2010

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More than 500 organizations—including two districts and 45 locals of the IBEW—have joined together to oppose passage of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement in Congress unless major protections are built in for U.S. workers, farmers and consumers.

Originally proposed by the Bush administration, the trade agreement has been stalled in Congress for three years.

In a letter to President Obama, labor unions, faith-based institutions and family farm and manufacturing advocacy groups ask the administration to modify the section of the trade agreement that would empower Korean firms operating in the U.S. to challenge U.S. environmental, financial, health and other policies in foreign courts.

Korea committed over three-quarter million dollars to lobbying firms to pass the free trade agreement in 2009, including a $45,000 per-month contract with lobbying firm Thomas Capitol Partners.

The letter reminds the administration that in 2007 the International Trade Commission concluded that the agreement would add to the trade imbalance between the two countries. Korean-made products make their way into the U.S. market in far greater quantities than U.S. goods are permitted to penetrate the Korean market.

As a “roadmap” for renegotiating the free trade agreement, the endorsers of the letter encourage Obama to consider the TRADE Act, which has the support of more than 150 members of Congress, including a majority of House Democrats.  

Says President Edwin D. Hill”

If ever there was a time when U.S. citizens of all political persuasions should closely scrutinize the rules of world trade, it’s now. Keeping good-paying jobs here at home is not a Democratic or Republican issue.  We need the leaders of both parties to be economic patriots and insist on fair trade that will strengthen our markets and jobs.

The Citizens Trade Campaign is urging members to contact their representatives in Congress to urge them to make needed changes to the agreement. Contact members of Congress now to push for fair trade with Korea.

Closely connected to issues surrounding trade is the question of the value of China’s currency.  On Friday, September 24, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing to discuss longstanding charges that China is keeping the cost of its currency artificially low to edge out competitors.

Keeping currency values low means that each dollar spent  in China or on Chinese imports buys a comparatively larger amount of goods or equipment than if they were manufactured in  the U.S.

Democratic leaders are considering legislation that would permit the U.S. Department of Commerce to take currency valuation into account when calculating duties—charges—on imports that are unfairly subsidized by competing nations like China.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander M. Levin (D-Mich.) outlined how, on three different occasions, he and others filed petitions with the Bush administration asking for action against China’s currency manipulation. Said Levin:

I have heard from scores of my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans alike, who have urged action to address China’s currency manipulation…The American people want the assurance that our nation has a strategy…Clearly China has a strategy as to how it competes in an increasingly globalized economic world.