A rhetorical problemAs the free trade agreement between Korea and the United States awaits final ratification, Democratic candidates for the U.S. presidency are expressing their opposition to the trade pact.
Senator Hillary Clinton says the FTA will expand the U.S. trade deficit and deprive the middle class of jobs. Senator Barak Obama, former Senator John Edwards and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson all have similar opinions.
Traditionally, candidates from the U.S. Democratic Party have supported trade restrictions during their campaigns.
But when they take power they tend to support free trade.
Former U.S. president Bill Clinton, a Democrat, broke his election pledge and helped secure the North American Free Trade Agreement. He also made a big contribution to the launch of the World Trade Organization. Union members who were supporters of Clinton resisted his free trade policies. The latest batch of Democratic candidates have the elections right before them. Their apparent position on free trade, or the Kor-U.S. FTA, to be specific, is not what they have in their minds. In order not to lose votes, the candidates are passing out candy-coated words.
The United States has free trade pacts to ratify with Korea, Peru, Colombia and Panama. The one with Korea will have the biggest impact on the U.S. economy, not to mention its significance for Korea. The Bush administration, the actual negotiator and supporter of the FTA with Korea, and others including industry and the financial markets are strongly in favor of rapid ratification. It is essential for the U.S. financial, service, agricultural and automobile industries, which want to expand their markets into Korea and strengthen U.S. influence and leadership in East Asia. To put it simply, it is for the good of the American people.
Korea is in talks with the European Union toward a possible free trade agreement while the possibility of a trade pact with China is growing.
If the Kor-U.S. FTA is blocked by the U.S. Congress, the losses will not be limited to the economy. Protected trade has been proved to be inferior to free trade. A free trade agreement is beneficial for both sides of the agreement. It is a win-win deal.
The Democratic candidates may say they want the small profit to be gained from protectionism, but they will not turn away from the enormous benefits the United States and its allies can gain from free trade agreements.