This letter was co-signed by 21 members of the U.S. Congress and 35 members of the Korean National Assembly, and sent to President Obama and President Lee on October 12, 2010. For PDF version of the original letter, click here.
As you begin negotiations on several outstanding issues related to the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA), we ask that you take this opportunity to make meaningful changes to the underlying text. We believe that trade agreements should foster balanced and fair economic exchange between two countries. Moreover, they should be tools for alleviating poverty, advocating economic justice, promoting healthy communities, advancing human rights, and protecting the environment. We urge you to modify the agreement to reflect these ideals and craft the first, true 21st Century Free Trade Agreement.
An FTA between our two countries should not jeopardize our governments’ policies to protect public health, the environment, and public service. We ask that the language in this agreement state more explicitly our countries’ intention to maintain our high health, labor, and environmental standards. Doing so will minimize the risk of foreign corporations challenging these policies as burdensome on their businesses. In addition, it will underscore the notion that FTAs can help to advance public health, food safety, workers’ and farmers’ rights, and environmental preservation. In this regard, two particularly troubling provisions are the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism and the negative list system of services.
In the aftermath of this worldwide recession, we must preserve our governments’ right to prevent and respond to financial crises. Both of our countries took extraordinary measures to react to the current economic downturn, without which our financial systems could have collapsed and the recession made worse. We urge you to clarify explicitly that this agreement protects our governments’ ability to regulate investment or the financial markets in the event of another financial crisis.
Even without a free trade agreement, Korea and the U.S. have exchanged on average nearly $70 billion worth of goods and services each year of the last decade. Our FTA should build on this existing economic relationship and strive to make it stronger and more beneficial for both countries. We strongly support an FTA that harnesses these benefits without exposing our health, labor, and environmental standards to potential corporate challenges. Making substantive changes to the KORUS text to safeguard against these challenges will preserve the fundamental objective of the FTA – to promote economic exchange and growth in our two countries.
An FTA that prioritizes corporate interests over those of our constituents is not an agreement but a compromise of our countries’ ideals, and it is one we foresee working to defeat. We urge you to take advantage of this opportunity to improve the FTA and make KORUS the new global standard in trade agreements.