Rep. Schrader Is Confused On International Trade

Steve Hughes, Ray Kenny, Frank Rouse, Salem Statesman-Journal Congressman Kurt Schrader seems to be confused. On the one hand, he says he opposes trade deals that extend greater rights to foreign investors than exist for Oregonians doing business in our state. On the other hand, he is supporting a massive new free trade agreement with South Korea that does just that. Congress is expected to vote on the Korea Free Trade Agreement — the largest trade deal of its kind since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) — within the next month or two. It's a deal that even the federal government's own International Trade Commission predicts would increase the overall U.S. trade deficit, with Northwest industries as diverse as high-tech, paper and nursery products all expected to take a hit. It is easy to see how the Korea free trade agreement will become another job-killer for our state. However, an often overlooked element of this proposal is how it empowers both the South Korean government and individual Korean firms to challenge virtually any law, regulation or court decision at the federal, state or municipal level as a so-called "barrier to trade." What does this mean? Imagine for a second if Congressman Schrader voted for a law that allowed a domestic business to drag our government before the World Bank, or the United Nations, or some other global authority, whenever that business was unhappy with a new regulation or court decision. Impossible, right? Well, under the Korea Free Trade Agreement this is exactly the right the Congressman is apparently willing to hand over to Korean companies. But don't take our word for it, it's right there in the text of the agreement the Congressman is preparing to vote for. This is hardly academic. In May of this year alone, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled against two American public interest policies: dolphin-safe tuna labels and country-of-origin labels for meat. Over the years, the U.S. has lost approximately 90 percent of the cases brought against it in that venue, on everything from Internet gambling to tax policy. Under NAFTA, there are at least another six cases currently pending against the United States, which together seek more than half-a-billion dollars in damages. In short, allowing Korean firms to unilaterally attack Oregon laws and policies of their choosing puts the state's landmark land use and environmental laws — among a host of other public interest policies — at unnecessary risk. This is why last August a bipartisan group of Oregon state legislators warned Congressman Schrader that these are "extraordinary rights for foreign investors that, if enacted, threaten to expose Oregon laws to attack in international tribunals." We also have to assume this is why Congressman Schrader himself is on record against these very provisions as recently as last fall. There are plenty of good reasons to oppose the Korea Free Trade Agreement. Standing up against special rights for foreign investors is one of them. Congressman Schrader should take a much closer look at the Korea Free Trade Agreement before casting a vote that could come back to haunt all of us. Read original post here.