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U.S.-Korea FTA News

(Daily News)
January 20, 2011

AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka this week said that fighting pending free trade agreements the U.S. has negotiated with South Korea and Colombia continues to be a “major priority” for his organization.


(Inside U.S. Trade)
December 23, 2010
President Obama's coup of getting the support of the United Autoworkers Union (UAW) for the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement has delivered a double benefit in that the International Brotherhood of Teamsters will not take a position on the FTA in the near term.
(Text Document)
December 20, 2010

(File Document)
December 17, 2010

(Inside U.S. Trade)
December 17, 2010
Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis yesterday (Dec. 16) told business lobbyists that the administration is aiming to finalize the legal text of a supplemental agreement for the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement and complete the legal scrub of that text by late January or early February, sources said.
(Daily News)
December 15, 2010

Administration officials are informally discussing the timing for seeking congressional consideration of the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement, and that conversation continued this week at a Dec. 13 meeting held at the White House that deputy-level officials from various agencies attended, sources said.


December 15, 2010

The stated goal of key House Republicans to move the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement in tandem with the two other pending FTAs with Panama and Colombia could cause problems not only for the Obama administration, but also U.S. business supporters of the Korea FTA.

Business supporters primarily interested in the Korea FTA fear that House Republicans may take a hard line next year by refusing to move it without also securing a congressional vote on the Panama and Colombia FTAs. In their view, this would make a Korea FTA vote more difficult or even derail it altogether.

At this point, these Korea FTA supporters are not publicly advocating against linkage because it is unclear what position House Republicans will ultimately take. Given that fact, these lobbyists see no reason to start fighting over the issue with otherwise staunch Republican allies. It is "too early to hit the panic button," one lobbyist said this week.

They may be betting that Republicans are somewhat restrained in their ability to drive up the price of the Korea vote for the administration by the potential political cost of holding it up.

On the other hand, some companies with a special interest in the Colombia FTA, such as Caterpillar, are actively working to achieve such FTA linkage, and are urging business groups to advocate it as well.

They believe that the best chance to move the Colombia FTA is to attach it to the momentum that the Korea FTA has garnered, as the administration appears otherwise reluctant to touch the Colombia FTA due to the stiff opposition it faces from labor unions and House Democrats.

Business groups are somewhat divided on the issue of how to approach the pending FTAs next year, even though they ultimately support passage of all three.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), who next year will serve as chairman of the Ways and Means trade subcommittee, has made the case for moving the three FTAs together or in a “tight sequence.” He insists that continued delay in FTA votes for Colombia and Panama is unacceptable for U.S. allies in the region and for U.S. exporters.

At the same time, Brady has made it clear that no decision has been made by the House leadership on how to proceed. Incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told a key business group in the last couple of weeks that he wants to link the FTAs or do them in sequence, which sources said referred to the order in which they were signed.

That would place Colombia on the top of the heap, followed by Panama and then Korea.

The Colombia FTA is clearly not a priority for the Obama administration and may well impose a higher political cost than it wants to incur with congressional Democrats and with core Democratic constituencies. Union opposition to the Colombia FTA is strong because of the country’s record of anti-union violence.

The likelihood of active, intense union opposition to the Korea FTA has greatly diminished in the wake of the endorsement of the United Auto Workers. The Panama FTA, which is the smallest trade deal of the three, is also unlikely to garner intense opposition from unions, according to some sources.

A tough Republican position on the issue of linkage would put the administration in a difficult position. It could also   be useful for those Republicans who are keen to promote the notion that business trade priorities are only addressed when Republicans are in charge, one Democratic observer alleged. Some Republicans clearly do not favor a situation where Democrats’ trade stance aligns with that of business, this observer charged.

While the administration is prioritizing the Korea FTA, it may have to tackle a second trade vote if Russia’s negotiations for entry into the World Trade Organization are completed sometime next year. This could also create a rift between the trade priorities of congressional Republicans and the administration.

To benefit from Russia's accession to the WTO, Congress would have to pass legislation extending permanent most favored nation status to Russia. Securing such a vote as part of its overall Russia policy is likely to be a higher priority for the administration than the two pending FTAs with Colombia and Panama.

Some business sources downplay the possibility of Russian WTO accession being completed next year though they acknowledge it is moving forward.

Nevertheless, the U.S.-Russia Business Council is working to lay the groundwork for such a vote, even though it would be difficult. One major problem is that there simply are no strong champions for the U.S.-Russia  relationship in the House, and there is a lot of opposition.


(Inside U.S. Trade)
December 10, 2010
On regulatory automotive issues, the Dec. 3 deal between the U.S. and South Korea secures an exemption for U.S. automakers from new Korean environmental standards that will cover fuel efficiency and carbon dioxide emissions and which are set to take effect in 2012 but which Korea is still developing, sources said.
(Inside U.S. Trade)
December 10, 2010
The final deal on automotive changes to the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement announced late last week contains more modest provisions than what the U.S. initially demanded when it comes to delays on the phase-out of the U.S. tariff on passenger cars and the standards applied to a new automotive safeguard, sources said.
(Inside U.S. Trade)
December 10, 2010
In order to secure changes to the original U.S.-Korea free trade agreement, U.S. negotiators agreed to extend the validity period of certain visas for Korean professionals entering the U.S. on intra-company transfers, and also agreed to other concessions on patents and pork market access, sources said.
(Inside U.S. Trade)
December 10, 2010
Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) said this week that he expects a strong, possibly even a majority vote from House Democrats for the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement, in part because the United Auto Workers (UAW) union supports the deal after the Obama administration secured a variety of changes to its auto provisions.
(Inside U.S. Trade)
December 10, 2010
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) will "actively oppose" the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement if the U.S. and South Korea fail to make additional progress on opening up the Korean market to U.S. beef exports, a source close to Baucus said this week.
(Inside U.S. Trade)
December 10, 2010
The AFL-CIO and three of its affiliates yesterday (Dec. 9) announced they will oppose the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement. Their announcement came just days after the United Auto Workers (UAW) announced that it would support the FTA, sending ripples of discontent through the AFL-CIO.
(File Document)
December 09, 2010

(Daily News)
December 09, 2010

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents workers primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing, and poultry industries yesterday (Dec. 8) became the second labor union to endorse the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement, following a United Autoworkers Union endorsement earlier this week.


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