Seattle Times writes ill-conceived Korea FTA editorial, WAFTC and CAGJ respond

Korean farmers campaigning against the ratification of the US Korea FTA and other trade agreements and rules that are inimical to farmers’ interests.The Seattle Times Editorial Board penned a piece promoting the same outdated, irresponsible, and damaging neoliberal trade model that was at the center of protests that shut down the WTO almost ten years ago.  Seattle responded!  See the original editorial, with several responses from CAGJ members and allies, below.

Ratify Korea trade pact

Seattle Times Editorial Board

THE South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement should be ratified, and soon, because of the initialing last month of a similar agreement between South Korea and the European Union.

The EU-Korean free-trade agreement hasn’t yet been formally signed or ratified, but it will be. Americans have their own agreement already in our pockets. It was signed on June 30, 2007. It awaits ratification, but has been stalled in Congress for more than two years. Americans could have their agreement before the Europeans have theirs, and have a trade advantage — if Congress acts.

If not, the trade advantage will go to the Europeans.

This is not like an agreement with Peru or Panama. This is a big one. South Korea is the 11th largest economy in the world. It’s a country that makes some of the best flat-screen TVs on the market, and can afford products made by American workers.

Both agreements, America’s and Europe’s, reduce more than 90 percent of industrial-goods tariffs to zero over a few years. Agriculture is more difficult. Korea will continue to protect its rice, and it will only slowly reduce its high tariff on U.S. beef. Still, Korea’s barriers against U.S. food products will fall substantially.

There are winners and losers on both sides when trade is made freer, but overall the gains are much bigger than the losses — on both sides. History is clear on this.

In Puget Sound country, we have a regional interest, and one that should transcend partisan loyalties. We were reminded of this recently when we received a joint news release of Rep. Adam Smith, Democrat, and Rep. Dave Reichert, Republican. They disagree on a number of things, but not on this.

For some Americans, whether to compete in the world is a big question. Here, there is no question. We made our decision long ago — at Boeing and Weyerhaeuser, Microsoft and Costco, the Aerospace Machinists and the Longshore workers, in our universities and our ports. Trade is good, and we are for it.

Get it done.

Trade agreement: Been there, done that

Yes, trade is good, but not all trade deals are good, so let’s not do the Korea free-trade agreement.

Korea has systematically shut out U.S.-manufactured goods, most notably U.S. automobiles, and this agreement does not change that. The mega-banks, entertainment providers and software industry will be big winners in this deal, but once again American workers will come up short.

The Korea agreement uses the WTO model that the least regulation is the best regulation. It is the same flawed approach that led to the recent global financial crisis created by runaway banks.

Our members of Congress should be working on reforming and improving our trade model before making any more bad deals.

The template for change already exists in the Trade Act (HR 3012), which has been co-sponsored by 127 members of Congress, but not one from Washington state. It’s time to get on board the way forward and stop repeating past mistakes.

— Allan Paulson, SeaTac

We need a new direction, and a new policy

Our country has spent the past 15 years indulging the free-market, free-trade ideology of deregulation and offshoring, of cutting government oversight and coddling investors.

Look what its brought us: Our manufacturing sector is in shambles, our leading export is fraudulent financial services, and the rich keep getting richer while the rest of us struggle.

Even in our state of Washington, companies like Boeing are outsourcing and offshoring faster than you can say, “Oops, the Dreamliner’s off schedule again.”

Do you still think the answer is more of the same?

Come on.

Our country needs a new direction in trade policy. Reps. Adam Smith and Dave Reichert should reject the outdated Korea free-trade agreement, and instead put that great bipartisan spirit to work fixing the mess we’re in.

— Marina Skumanich, Seattle

Finding the balance between pure free trade and protectionism

The trade debate is easily expressed as trade versus protectionism.

If you are against trade, you must be a protectionist. This is a curiously American sentiment, since every other country in the world finds a comfortable spot between those two extremes.

No country in the world is pure free trade or pure protectionism.

It is far more useful for everyone to favor a trade policy that raises our standard of living and strengthens communities we care about. We can all oppose a trade policy that lowers our standard of living or wrecks communities we care about.

From that perspective, we all favor trade, and we need only ask which of the available trade policies will do the best job of raising our standard of living, and helping communities we care about.

Free trade has failed to meet lofty promises made to American workers, families and communities. Adding one more agreement with Korea won’t redeem a trade model that is fundamentally flawed.

— Stan Sorscher, Seattle

Dear Seattle Time Opinion Editor,

The current economic crisis is further evidence that US policies on trade are flawed. Therefore it is deeply troubling that the Seattle Times continues to advocate for the corporate-driven model of trade that drives down our standard of living and that of our trading partners.

This time you are trying to dust off the Korean Free Trade Agreement with the simplistic assertion that any trade is good trade. We challenge the Times to actually talk with workers in WA State and get their opinions on the containers that come into WA State ports filled with flat screen TVs and cars manufactured in Korea and go back empty, a problem that the Korea FTA will only make worse. Workers in aerospace, longshore, IT, agriculture and almost every other sector have repeatedly called for an overhaul of our failed trade policy.

Jobs are being outsourced by the tens of thousands and living wage jobs are harder and harder to find. WA State is facing a more than two billion dollar debt. How is trade working for more than the few at the top of the corporate food chain?

The Washington Fair Trade Coalition, with 45 member organizations in labor, social justice and environmental advocacy throughout Washington State, calls on Reps Smith, Reichert and the entire WA Congressional delegation to bury once and for all Bush-brokered trade agreements and put workers back into trade policy and support the TRADE Act.

The TRADE Act (HR 3012) has the confidence of over 128 members in the US House of Representatives and is actively supported by workers at Boeing, Microsoft, in our ports and universities, who are the backbone of economic recovery here in WA State.

Signed,

Kristen Beifus

Washington Fair Trade Coalition

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