Never-ending FTAIn an open letter to U.S. President George W. Bush, U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama asked him not to submit to the proposal to ratify the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement in Congress, claiming the agreement has many defects.
He has long been known to be negative toward the agreement.
But his statement is striking because it came from the de facto presidential candidate of the Democratic Party, which is now in control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. This person could well become the next U.S. president.
During the race for the Democratic nomination, white working-class people kept Senator Obama at a respectful distance. Therefore, his disapproval of the Korea-U.S. FTA stems from a desire to draw the votes of this demographic who are likely to lose jobs due to the agreement.
Obama has pinpointed the clause on cars as unfair, because he is conscious of workers in the auto industry who are most likely to be hit by the FTA.
This stance is understandable given that he is a politician working to become president.
However, in view of the fact that it the FTA an agreement between two countries, he can’t escape from being seen as a politician who has lost his balance.
The Korea-U.S. FTA was forged by the decision of two governments that had common interests, after more than a year of intensive negotiations.
Of course, there are clauses that are not completely pleasing to both sides.
The U.S. is dissatisfied with the clause on cars, and South Korea with the clause on agriculture. But a common belief that these could be complemented led the two governments to step back and agree.
Unlike the U.S., the South Korean government had to withstand 620 demonstrations staged by 490,000 people to come to the agreement.
Nonetheless, if the U.S. insists on renegotiating the terms of any clause that may cause some American losses, the process will never end.
Will Senator Obama listen to steel workers in addition to auto workers if they also rise to protest?
Will the U.S. also accept it if South Korea calls for renegotiations when those in the farm and livestock sectors protest? Senator Obama should see external relations from a broad perspective, especially because South Korea is a U.S. ally.