At today's meeting of the President's Export Council, President Obama predicted passage of the U.S.-South Korea trade pact that was reached last week.
Although he noted the agreement would boost American exports by $11 billion annually and support more than 70,000 U.S. jobs, he also warned the group that there remained a great deal of wariness among many parties in the United States when it comes to trade deals.
"On the Korea free trade agreement, I think we're gonna get this thing passed," Obama said. "But, I tell you, even as hard as we worked on this, as good as it is for American businesses, American workers, there's still just a lot of suspicion about trade deals. And so thinking about how we can better talk about trade, market trade that's' gonna be a major challenge I think this group needs to engage in."
The Korean trade accord has support from both political parties and from groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the United Auto Workers union.
But the main labor federation, the AFL-CIO, today came out in opposition to the trade agreement. Said AFL President Richard Trumka:
For more than a decade, the labor movement, environmental groups, development advocates and others have advocated for a new trade policy that is part of a more coordinated and coherent national economic strategy. The proposed U.S.-Korea trade deal does not live up to that model and does not contribute to a sustainable global future. We believe we must move towards a more democratic, sustainable and fair global economy with broadly shared prosperity for working people around the world. Reaching that goal will require deep-seated reforms in current trade policy, as well as in our own domestic labor laws and other policies.
We welcome the tremendous efforts by the Obama administration and particularly Ambassador Ron Kirk and his team to address the urgent concerns of autoworkers and auto companies with respect to market access, safeguard provisions and some non-tariff barriers. Ways and Means Chairman Sander Levin and Ranking Member Dave Camp also pressed hard for key improvements in the auto provisions, and we appreciate their strong efforts. These newly negotiated provisions will give some much needed breathing room to the auto industry, and we appreciate the hard bargaining that was necessary to win these important changes.
However, the labor movement’s concerns about the Korea trade deal go beyond the auto assembly sector to a more fundamental question about what a fairer and more balanced trade policy should look like.