Friday, 4 November 2011

Twelve Reasons Why We Should Oppose the Korea-US FTA

The 99% against the Korea-US FTA of the 1%.

<This is a text version of the leaflet we have been using for candlelight vigil taking place every night in Seoul. You can see PDF version of the original Korean leaflet here. Christian Park made this translation>

Without a doubt, the Korea-US FTA is an agreement only for the rich 1% and big businesses. It will increase the prices of medicines and medical fees jeopardizing the health care system. Once introduced, the Investor-State Dispute settlement (ISD) will prevent public regulators from curbing the corporate greed. The Korea-US FTA will privatize public corporations which will jack up the utility
fees. It is a one-way ticket to privatization. There is no turning back for privatized and unregulated public corporations even if prices go out of control. Any mechanism to protect small and medium businesses will be in violation of the Korea-US FTA and South Korea agriculture will collapse. The Korea-US FTA is good only for the rich 1% and the big businesses in the US and South Korea.

1. Skyrocketing prices of medicines and medical fees will threaten the health care system.

The Korea-US FTA will extend the patent delaying the introduction of low price generic drugs (approval-paten linkage). Moreover, it will allow multinational pharmaceutical companies to reject the price control by the government (independent review process). As a result, patients’ medical cost will go through the roof jeopardizing the health care budget. With the ratification of the Korea-US FTA, the conditional operation of for-profit hospitals in free economic zones in 20 cities will become permanent. The medical fees of for-profit hospitals are much more higher than that of not-for-profit hospitals. In the end, they will drive the entire medical cost up.

2. The Investor-State Dispute (ISD) will incapacitate public and welfare policies. 

They say the Korea-US FTA will not effect the public policies. Nothing could be farthest from the truth. According to the Korea-US FTA, multinational corporations can bring the South Korean government to the international arbitration tribunal to demand compensation. The South Korean government has no choice but to be dragged into a costly arbitration process. This is because of the automatic consent clause. The Canadian government was brought to the arbitration tribunal when it banned the disposal of hazardous wastes by designating green-belt zones.

The ISD system is not a universal mechanism. The current negotiation for the DDA at the WTO has rejected the adoption of ISD. If the ISD system is included in the Korea-US FTA, then the South Korean government has no choice but to accept the decision of the arbitration tribunal. If the government rejects the decision, then there will be trade retaliation. It would make the regulation
of corporations for public interest impossible. It will make a paradise for multinational corporations but greatly diminish the power of the South Korean government to implement public policies.

3. There will be a flood of privatizations and jack up the prices including utility fees.

In Cochabamba, Bolivia, a country with the minimum wage of $60, a monthly water bill skyrocketed to $20 after the privatization of the city water company.Residents of Cochabamba locked the water faucets in fear that children might use them and drank rainwater. One of the companies that belonged to the privatized water network, Bechtel, argued that even rain water should be charged since it belonged to them. During the crisis, the Bolivian government did not try to re-nationalize the water works in fear that it might be brought to the ISD system.

The South Korean government is planning to privatize railroads and gas. Once they are privatized, it is inevitable that the prices will rise. However, the government won’t be able to re-nationalize them once the Korea-US FTA is ratified because of ratchet mechanisms. South Korean ordinary working people are already suffering from high prices. Surely, the Korea-US FTA will further increase the utility fess.

4. There will be a massacre of local shops.

Even today, with one large retailer operated supermarket in the neighborhood most of local shops are forced to close. These so called super supermarkets like E-Mart and Homeplus compete with local shops and restaurants with low price products and foods. With the Korea-US FTA, these super supermarkets will thrive more with less regulations. What was once a dream for ordinary working people who are forced to retire early or lost jobs to opening a local shop or a pizzeria has become a nightmare.

5. Say goodbye to foreign currency control even in a time of foreign currency crisis.

When the 1997 Asian financial crisis hit South Korea foreign capitals quickly withdrew like an out-going tide. At such a time, a government can respond with financial safeguards like temporary limiting international transfers of foreign capitals. The Korea-US FTA make it clear that the pre-condition for any financial safeguard is that it will not harm commercial, economical, and financial interests of the US. Once in effect, the Korea-US FTA will make it impossible to control the flow of foreign currency even in a time of foreign currency crisis.

6. The Korea-US FTA will hurt South Korea’ trade balance.

What happened after the Korea-US FTA? South Korea’s trade surplus with the EU dropped by 3.7 billion dollars. They say that the Korea-US FTA will increase South Korea’s exports to the US. But the US is in an economic crisis. Millions of Americans are out of jobs and many lost their houses. The unemployment rate is stuck at 10%.

Even if we take the argument at face value, an increase of exports does not necessarily leads to more jobs or better life for ordinary working people. After the NAFTA, the US trade surplus increased but 700,000 jobs in the US were reduced. How about Mexico? Mexico’s exports increased also. However, the economic situations of ordinary working people worsened. Polarization increased to a point only 13 million out of the 40 million working age population
had full-time jobs. Big businesses and the rich got more rich while working people got poorer.

7. The Korea-US FTA destroys Korean agriculture.

Prices of US and EU agricultural products are the cheapest in the world. Simply, it is because the US and EU governments give the biggest subsidies in the world. The farmers in the US annually receive around 22 billion dollars from the US government in direct subsidies. This is incredible compared to the amount the Korean farmers are getting. Such huge subsidies help to keep the prices of US and EU agricultural products low making it impossible for others to follow. While this is the reality, the Korea-US FTA will force the reduction of agricultural tariffs. This will destroy Korean agriculture.

8. The Korea-US FTA destroys environment.

The US government stated four pre-conditions to the signing of the Korea-US FTA demanded. One of them is eliminating the tax levied to automobiles with high carbon dioxide emission. As a result, South Korea is forced to drop the environment protection policy that taxes automobiles with high carbon dioxide emission. This is going against the global efforts to stop global warming. One of the many deregulations is related to GMO foods.

9. The Korea-US FTA is an unfair and unequal agreement.

Article 102 of the US implementing bill on the Korea-US FTA makes it clear that US law comes first in cases where the Korea-US FTA comes into conflict with the former. In contrast, the Korea-US FTA comes first in cases of conflicts with Korean law. The Korea-US FTA is treated as a domestic law in South Korea. The
US implementing bill prohibits South Korean companies doing business in the US filing a legal suit in the US court in case of FTA related violation.

10. Integration of South Korea into the US-led world order will increase the regional tension in Northeast Asia.

The Korea-US FTA is not just an economic agreement. It will further integrate South Korea into the US-led world order politically and militarily. Northeast Asia is a highly volatile region where China and the US go head to head economically and militarily. The Korea-US FTA will only increase the tension. Will the strengthening of the military alliance between South Korea and the US bring peace in the region? Uncritical strengthening of the military alliance between South Korea and the US will bring more danger to the region and do harm to realizing peace in the Korean peninsula.

11. This FTA is only for the 1%.

The Korea-US FTA is not a battle between South Koreans and American. It is not only the US big businesses that are supporting the Korea-US FTA. Korean big businesses like jaebeols are welcoming it with open arms and actively promoting it in media advertisements. Why is this? Privatization of the public sector in
South Korea would bring huge profits not only to the US big businesses but also to the Korean big businesses. For example the privatization of healthcare would give profit-making opportunities to not only the US health insurance companies but also the Korean health insurance companies. Is this win-win for everyone?

What happens to the ordinary working people? Prices of all sorts of public sector goods like gas, electricity, railroad, etc. will increase. Prices of medicine and medical care will also go up jeopardizing the finance of the national health insurance. Mom and pop stores will go out of business. The number of precarious workers will increase. Free and organic school food service would be impossible. The Korea-US FTA will deepen the polarization giving more to the rich 1% while taking more from the 99%.

12. The 99% can stop the Korea-US FTA.

Should every country accept it unconditionally just because the US government is pushing for the FTA? The answer is no. The US government has already tried to sign an FTA with Latin America (FTAA). But it failed when confronted with the protests from the people of Latin America. Matter of fact, all the FTAs that the US
government initiated with countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia failed or are not going anywhere. There is an exception though. It is the Korea-US FTA. It is still alive. South Korea successfully blocked the full lift of the ban on the import of US beefs from cattle aged 30 or more months with the massive candlelight protests. If everyone stands up and say no to FTA, we can stop the Korea-US FTA. The 99% can stop the Korea-US FTA which is only for the 1%.


  1. what is FTA?

  2. Opposing the Korea-US FTA will only give problems between these two countries. Why not support it for it may help generate jobs for the people?

    wites & kapetan debt settlement