Sen. Snowe: U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement Threatens American Jobs

PoliticalNews.me WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, says the pending U.S.–South Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) could endanger critical manufacturing jobs and thus will withhold her support until the U.S. government demonstrates its commitment to enforcing existing trade rules and holding violators accountable. Snowe also blasted the Obama Administration and Democratic Senate leaders for attempting to combine the U.S.-South Korea trade pact with reauthorization of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a program Snowe has long supported. “The Senate has had more than enough time to debate and consider ideas to improve and reauthorize TAA over the last several months and by doing so we could have avoided linking it to a trade pact that will likely cost many more American jobs,” said Senator Snowe. “In fact, on February 8th I sent a letter to Senate leadership urging that they work with me to secure a long-term reauthorization of TAA so that families in Maine and across the U.S. have the tools and resources to prepare for new employment opportunities. However since the start of this year, almost half of the Senate’s time has been spent in non-legislative activity like quorum calls, and not debating job-creating policies, not voting on amendments, and not passing bills to advance and reauthorize TAA. As a result, we find ourselves forced into considering the reauthorization of this vital assistance in the context of a dangerously flawed trade proposal that in my view lacks the safeguards necessary to protect American jobs from trade violations that could undercut domestic competitiveness.” Of the underlying trade agreement with South Korea, Senator Snowe said, “This Administration, and successive Republican and Democratic administrations before it, has consistently missed key opportunities to support American workers by holding our trade partners accountable when they violate international commitments on currency manipulation, institute discriminatory government procurement policies, or exploit workers’ rights. Enforcing rights and benefits under our nation’s existing trade policies is vital to protecting American jobs and should be priority number one when it comes to ensuring U.S. businesses are able to compete in the global economy.” In addition, Senator Snowe noted that South Korea has a history of managing its currency – intervening heavily to support the won in recent years. In fact, as recently as May 27, 2011, the U.S. Treasury issued a report indicating that South Korea has intervened with the objective of “smoothing won volatility” and estimated that the Korean won could be undervalued relative to its equilibrium level by an estimated 5 to 20 percent. “Yet there is nothing in this agreement to directly hold South Korea accountable if in the future it follows the example of its neighbor China and intentionally manipulates the rate of exchange between the won and the U.S. dollar for the purposes of gaining an unfair competitive advantage,” said Snowe. “This, very simply, is inexcusable.” Unfortunately, as China continues to undervalue its currency, it also incentivizes other nations to follow its model as a way for their exporters to stay competitive with low-priced Chinese products. To hold America’s trading partners accountable if they deliberately suppress the value of their currency to gain an unfair trade advantage, Senator Snowe recently introduced the Currency Exchange Rate Transparency Act, S. 1238. This legislation would take steps to level the playing field for American workers by requiring the President to certify when sending a trade agreement to Congress that the government of the country the trade agreement is with has not manipulated its currency in the last ten years. “American job creators cannot afford to enter into trade agreements with known violators of international trade laws,” said Senator Snowe. “Manufacturers and workers in trade-sensitive industries, including Maine’s paper production industry, have already been harmed by China’s enduring mercantilist trade practices. This common-sense legislation will protect American jobs and competitiveness by ensuring that special trade privileges are not afforded to governments who engage in currency manipulation. It will also send a clear message to our potential free trade agreement partners that Congress and the President have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to the unfair practice of currency manipulation.” Read original post here.