MN-03 : Who Pays For Free Trade and Free Military ?

ADAGE : Nothing’s Free … somehow you are paying for it.

FOUNDING FATHER’s ADVICE : War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes … known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare. — James Madison, Political Observations, 1795

Erik Paulsen (R-MN-03) is the co-chair of a new House working group for the Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS), which has proposed to eliminate 95 percent of tariffs between the United States and South Korea within three years.

Nothing’s Free … but if Mr. Paulsen wants this, there must be major problems with the current agreement.
So, are America businesses prevented from sending product into South Korea today, because I know that there are plenty of South Korean products on store shelves in the USA ( for example South Korea has exported over 700,000 cars to the United States.)
In 2006, Minnesota had over $500 million in exports to South Korea in everything from machinery to medical devices. South Korea is the fifth largest market for agriculture products for Minnesota.
In fact, South Korea seems to be doing quite well under the current agreement. As the world’s ninth-largest exporter, South Korea is on course to achieve a US$30 billion trade surplus by year’s end — a record. Economy Minister Choi Kyung-hwan said in July : “Our economy has been recovering at a faster pace than expected. It is a recovery led by exports and large business groups.”

Goody … so South Korea has recovered, while America still faces challenges. The solution Mr. Paulsen writes :

An agreement with Korea alone could lead to more than a $10 billion increase in exports to Seoul and tens of thousands of new jobs in the United States. In uncertain economic times, this is an outstanding opportunity for job growth and increased production.

Gosh, with this being an election year and jobs being a primary issue, it is not a surprise to see a politician flaunting great job projections.
But, the devil is in the details … the trade framework will give goods of South Korean origin duty-free entry into the U.S. market, while U.S. exports to South Korea will still be subject to a 10 percent value added tax. In its current form, the net result will likely be further job losses … potentially leading to total outsourcing of jobs to South Korea. If the purpose of this agreement is to provide fair and equitable treatment to all parties, then United States simply cannot accept an agreement that places U.S. manufacturers and workers at such a blatant disadvantage. An agreement cannot be called “free trade” when one party imposes tariffs on imports and the other party does not.

Instead, Mr. Paulsen should discuss with other members of the Minnesota delegation HR 3012 – The Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act. The TRADE Act presents a balanced framework for expanding trade, in a way that can serve a majority of people on issues such as jobs, wages, the environment, worker rights, and consumer safety. Thus far five members of the Minnesota delegation in the House have signed on as co-sponsor … bringing the total to 147. Senator Franken is a co-sponsor on S 2821, the companion bill in the Senate.

Free Trade … Nothing is free … but at least make it Fair Trade.

Well, South Korea is getting something virtually free … America’s military. South Korea is not a defenseless country … it has a force of 686,000 active troops and 4.5 million in reserve, supported by 538 combat aircrafts, 2,300 tanks and a 230-ship navy. And as Senator McCain (R-AZ) remarked in his opening statement at last week’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, “there is no doubt…that South Korean forces are among the most capable and best equipped in the world.” In fact, the South Korea military is so competent that it sent 3,600 troops to the Kurdish region of Iraq in 2004.

Then why is American taxpayers expending over a BILLION Dollars a year (okay, to be more accurate at least $1.23 billion) with 28,500 US troops stationed there.
Footnote : A little history, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld wanted to reduce the troop strength but the South Korean Defense Ministry objected. South Korea wanted to maintain the American military and eventually in June 2008, the Pentagon under Secretary Robert Gates announced that the drawdown to the present 28,500. South Korea would like to keep the troops in place until 2016.

If Nothing’s Free, and Mr. Paulsen wants Free Trade with South Korea, why doesn’t the negotiations include South Koreas paying the full cost for our troops stationed there ?

As voters begin to evaluate the candidates, both Mr. Paulsen and Jim Meffert need to explain their views on outsourcing of jobs, free trade versus fair trade and America’s enormous and expanding military budget.

Let’s heed James Madison’s words … America has had troops stationed in South Korea for a long time … how long ??? longer than Erik Paulsen has been alive … continual warfare spending is causing major fiscal problems … Mr. Paulsen’s election year theme is “Spend Less” when it should be “Spend Wisely

Tags: , ,