Trading Problems: Koreans Fight Back

By Malena Amusa Feb 15, 2007

U.S. trade officials met with South Korean officials in Washington D.C. this week to talk about a free-trade deal between the two countries. Now, stick with me here. The Free Trade Agreement is on Congressional “fast track” which means these folks want to make force a decision like yesterday with as little debate as possible. But here’s why Racewire is concerned. If successful, the deal may put thousands of Korean farmers straight out of business as the U.S. starts importing its subsidized goods into Korea. Korean rice farmers in particular face a challenge from American rice makers who receive billions of dollars in government subsidies. Wait, Wait, doesn’t this sound familiar? The decade-ago passage of the North America Free Trade Agreement wrecked havoc on Mexico’s corn farmers. American subsidized corn flooded their markets and the farmers couldn’t beat the price. Real wages fell by 80 percent and 15 percent of workers went unemployed. With no jobs many Mexican farmers turned to low-wage assembly-line factories or headed for the dangerous border. Let’s put it in context: While deportation bandits are running around enforcing Homeland Security’s crackdown on "illegal" immigration, one has to wonder why the U.S. government doesn’t take ownership of immigration “problems” it had a direct hand in creating. So back to Korea. There’s no border for poor Koreans to cross and become targets in America. But something tells me a symbolic line may be drawn as angry American autoworkers focus their energy on racist and xenophobic attacks against Korean competition that already out-imports cars by hundreds of thousands. Although some friends of mine protesting said the AFL-CIO and several other job rights organizations have allied with the Korean activists in defense of workers across borders, I don’t think we can forget what this conflict can mean for human relations. Remember Vincent Chin. In 1982, Detroit, Chin, a 27-year-old Chinese American mistaken for Japanese was brutally beaten to death by two American autoworkers. They blamed him for job loss. For Japan’s domination of the car market. They used a bat. They used their violent words. Look, I’m not against trade. But before we go fast-tracking free trade agreements, I do believe there needs to be a real debate about who stands to win and lose. As corporations drive these these discussions toward maximizing profits, working people on both sides of the globe getting royally screwed by policy makers who don’t act on our interests or let us into the discussion. Korean activists and fair trade protesters would agree. They stormed the capital this week; fought with some police; and got all ugly outside a building where the trade talks took place. Today, they begin a second-wave campaign to collaborate with other groups and visit Congress, which has an opportunity to reject these agreements. We’ll keep you posted as the discussion develops…