Korea-US Free Trade Agreement Two Years Out: Promise vs. Reality

Before the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) was adopted, a lot of promises were made. This deal would result in more U.S. jobs and bigger markets for U.S. goods in Korea, we were told. The problems of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would be fixed, we were promised.

March 15 marks the second anniversary of this deal, and two years out, reality doesn't match up with any of those promises. That's a lesson that hasn't been lost on working families, consumers, greens and other citizen groups. And that's why there is such strong, and growing, opposition by ordinary Americans to another trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In 2013, under the first full year of the Korean Free Trade Agreement, the U.S. trade deficit with South Korea -- the shortfall between what we export to Korea and the goods that Korea exports to the U.S. -- was more than $20 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau reported, an increase of nearly 100% from deficits prior to adoption of this agreement.

The U.S. overall trade deficit with the 11 countries now negotiating with the U.S. for the TPP is $154 billion, and Korea has expressed strong interest in joining the TPP deal as well. Our elected leaders need to be reminded that trade deficits are directly linked to jobs. More U.S. exports in goods and services mean more jobs, except when those exports are dwarfed by a flood of imported goods and services, as has happened under every major trade deal in the past 20 years, including the Korea trade deal.

What happened to the 70,000 jobs that the Korea Free Trade deal was supposed to create? They never materialized. Instead, U.S. workers lost 40,000 jobs in the first year of the agreement.

We know that trade deals matter. They matter to working families, they matter to U.S. communities, and they matter to those of us who believe that U.S. trade policy should work for everyone, not just multinational corporations.

There's a better way. CWA and our allies from environmental and consumer groups, small business, citizen and good government groups and others are pushing members of Congress to support trade policy that works for all of us.

Multinational corporations see the TPP as a document that protects investors. They're right. It would enable corporations to move even more jobs offshore, to countries like Vietnam and Malaysia, but with new protections for that investment. It would give corporations an expanded ability to sue governments over any laws or regulations that could affect their "expected future profits," including environmental standards, public health provisions, food safety standards, and more. Remember, just five of the TPP's 29 chapters have anything to do with traditional trade issues. The others address these investor protections and other provisions.

We've had 20 years of bad trade deals. Now it's time for fair trade policy that supports and benefits ordinary Americans.