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  • KORUS Trade Pact Keeps Pressure on North Korea

    By further cementing the positive relationship between South Korea and the United States, the pending South Korea–United States (KORUS) free trade agreement will further weaken the oppressive North Korean regime’s strategic position and help disabuse the regime’s leaders of any hopes they might have had of flagging U.S. support for the South.

    Ironically, opponents of KORUS have hyped the possibility of economic benefits to North Korea as a reason to oppose or delay the pact. The Kaesong Industrial Complex, a rather dormant and ill-fated economic development zone between South and North Korea, is the latest card played by opponents of the trade deal.

    A few examples: Public Citizen has claimed, “The Obama administration is now pushing a trade agreement with South Korea that perversely could provide a flood of new money for the North Korean dictatorship to bolster their weapons program, as well as maintain their stranglehold over the North Korean people.” Expressing the same concerns, Congressman Brad Sherman (D–CA) opined in March, “Congress should reject the pending FTA with South Korea. It is likely that the United States would be opened up to North Korean goods under the agreement’s liberal rules of origin.”

    In reality, goods produced in Kaesong will not obtain any benefits under the KORUS trade deal. As Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis testified in early April, “Any change to how Kaesong is treated under the agreement would require Congress to pass and the president to sign legislation. So there is nothing in this agreement that provides any benefits to Kaesong.”

    In addition, President Obama has just issued a new executive order that “takes additional steps” prohibiting certain transactions regarding North Korea. Effective April 19, “notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the date of this order, the importation into the United States, directly or indirectly, of any goods, services, or technology from North Korea is prohibited.”

    The KORUS FTA is one of the most comprehensive trade accords that the U.S. has pursued, and it has strong legal provisions in place. It will benefit Americans and South Koreans and do nothing but add pressure on North Korea for further reform. It is the time to stop the ill-informed fear mongering and get on with the deal.

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    One Response to KORUS Trade Pact Keeps Pressure on North Korea

    1. John Dougherty, Bell says:

      The KORUS FTA may very well be a beneficial agreement for the USA. However, the South Korean (SK) government has violently repressed any dissent, opposition, or open debate on the matter within their own country. How can the USA enter into any agreement with a foreign country, with the word "Free" in its title, when the very essence of the word has been denied to the citizenry of one nation in the matter? Pro-ratification ads by the SK government run daily, while opposition ads have been banned by the same government. The SK government has made every decision on this trade agreement behind closed doors, without public hearings. Pro-ratification SK politicians are free to speak their mind about the agreement's supposed benefits in the media, while honest dissenters are arrested and/or harassed by police if they try to make their voices heard on the matter.

      That kind of repressive behavior does not bring to mind the meaning of the word "free" to me at all, nor should it do so for any liberty-loving individual. What it does bring to mind are words like "elitist" and "totalitarian", ideals hardly in keeping with the spirit of democracy.

      I am neither for nor against the KORUS FTA, that is not my point here. My point is that I cannot in good faith even begin to consider it until the SK people themselves have had a fair and open chance to discuss and debate it for themselves. That has not happened. Therefore I urge you to reconsider your support for this agreement until comprehensive public hearings about it are held within South Korea.

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