Saturday, December 4, 2010

Yee ha! Free Trade Agreement re-agreed!

Good news for President Obama, President Lee, most folks in South Korea, loads of folks in the United States, and me (and probably you, too).

From AP, via WaPo:
The U.S. and South Korea have reached an agreement on a free trade deal sought by the Obama administration to boost American exports and create tens of thousands of U.S. jobs in the largest trade pact in more than a decade.

Negotiators reached a deal on outstanding issues related to the automobile industry, which have been a sticking point in the talks, said a person close to the discussions. The person spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of an official White House announcement.

South Korea is agreeing to allow the U.S. to lift a 2.5 percent tariff on Korean cars in five years, instead of cutting the tariff immediately. The agreement also allows each U.S. automaker to export 25,000 cars to South Korea as long as they meet U.S. federal safety standards and allows the U.S. to continue a 25 percent tariff on trucks for eight years and then phase it out by the 10th year. South Korea would be required to eliminate its 10 perent tariff on U.S. trucks immediately.
The "chicken tax" (the US's anachronistic 25% tariff on imported pickup trucks) still stands, and that could mean no Bongo trucks in Middle America, while the streets of Seoul will be filled with Hillbilly Hummers (aka, the Ford F150). Yee ha, indeed.

And of course, this doesn't mean we're out of the woods yet. While Obama will probably have little real problem getting the FTA through a Republican-dominated House of Representatives and a barely Democratic-controlled Senate, President Lee will face the full force of the chinboistas and maybe the dung-flinging farmers (who are not entirely chinboista-sympathetic) when he tries to get it through the National Assembly. After all, their voice is their only veto.

This could get as big as the Mad Cow candlelight madness of 2008. Expect it to get at least as ugly as the protests against the Chile-Korea FTA (which often saw more farmers than chinboista).

More on the FTA agreement having been reached over at The Marmot's Hole, where a lively discussion will no doubt ensue.


  1. One quick point in an otherwise excellent article:

    In the US, the treaty power is a coordinated effort between the Executive branch and the Senate. The President may form and negotiate a treaty, but the treaty must be advised and consented to by a two-thirds vote in the Senate. Only after the Senate approves the treaty can the President ratify it.

  2. That's what I'd been thinking, too, but apparently the FTA must get by the House as well. I say apparently because, although I have not found a description of the mechanism or process one way or the other, several US news media stories I've encountered on this talk about getting it through the House being easier in the new Republican-controlled House that will be seated in January.

    Could it be that free-trade agreements are a different type of "treaty" than standard political ones? NAFTA also went through the House (President Clinton and VP Gore had quite a challenge getting the Bush41-signed bill past their own part, and in the end something like half the Democrats and two-thirds of the Republicans supported it (off the top of my head).

    When school's done, I'll look into this a bit more carefully. The entire political game may be interesting.


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