Textile Workers Oppose Trade Deal With Korea

Doug Walker, Rome News-Tribune Representatives from Mount Vernon Mills in Trion and Frontier Spinning in Cedartown delivered a petition to officials in Rep. Phil Gingrey’s Rome office on Wednesday, expressing opposition to the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. The petition contained 1,241 signatures. Nationwide, more than 27,000 signatures have been collected in opposition to the agreement. The delegation, led by Mount Vernon Mills Vice President and General Manager Don Henderson, wanted to make sure that the congressman gets the message that weak customs enforcement, along with immediate and unequal tariff phase-outs on competitive U.S. products, would cost 12,000 direct textile jobs and put 40,000 workers that make up the textile-industry supply chain at risk. “It’s flawed just as most of the others are,” said Henderson. “China, being right next door to Korea, can continue to ship through Korea and get goods relabeled if this becomes a free trade agreement. The other thing is, surely we don’t value Korean jobs more than we do American jobs. I would hope not.” The textile industry was the backbone of the Coosa Valley manufacturing economy for decades, but most of the jobs in the clothing segment of the industry have gone offshore over the course of the last two decades. Henderson said the Korean deal is significantly different from the North American Free Trade Agreement and Central American Free Trade Agreement. “They require that the garments that are made and shipped are made from American fabric,” Henderson said. “In our end of the business, having a ready market to send it into where it can be converted into garments and then it comes back into the U.S. essentially duty free, that’s a good agreement.” On the other hand, a report prepared on behalf of the U.S. Senate Finance subcommittee says it could create more than a quarter of a million American jobs when fully in place. The original agreement was signed in the spring of 2007 but never submitted to Congress for ratification. The Obama administration amended the agreement in the fall of 2010. Proponents of the agreement argue that American-made products are subject to unfairly high Korean tariffs. Those tariffs can be as high as 54 percent on agricultural goods and 6.6 percent on non-agricultural products. The United States imposes tariffs of 3.2 percent on Korean non-agricultural goods and 9 percent on Korean agricultural goods. Supporters claim that a reduction, even to the extent of an elimination of the tariffs, would permit American farmers and manufacturers to compete better on a more even keel. Korea is the fifth-largest market for U.S. farm products. Committees in both the House and Senate conducted test votes last week for the Korean agreement as well as agreements with Panama and Colombia. The Senate Finance panel and House Ways and Means committee both approved mocks of the pacts, which are expected to be submitted by the administration later this summer or early this fall. If ratified, the agreement would be the first free trade agreement with one of the large Asian nations. Read original post here.