"I was born at night, but not last night," was my reaction after reading Ninth District U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer’s form letter response to my request of his position on the Korean-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, or KORUS.
In his attempt to justify supporting this so-called "free-trade agreement," the congressman relies on talking points provided by the multinational corporate special interest groups pushing this legislation.
Mr. Luetkemeyer summarized his position with this statement: “Through this proposed trade agreement, we are strengthening our ability to create and defend manufacturing jobs in the United States, increase exports of agricultural products for American farmers and ranchers and opening Korea’s services market for American companies.”
To believe this statement requires the ability to ignore the history of previous trade agreements and nonpartisan analysis of KORUS.
The United States International Trade Commission study of KORUS shows our manufacturing trade deficit with Korea increasing with this agreement. Increasing deficits mean fewer American jobs. This finding is notable because the Trade Commission has a history of overly optimistic projections on the benefits of trade agreements. It predicted NAFTA would decrease our trade deficits with Mexico and Canada. In fact, our deficits exploded, costing millions of American jobs. The Trade Commission also predicted our agreement with China would only increase our deficit by $1 billion. We currently run a $240 billion annual trade deficit with China.
Rep. Luetkemeyer’s statement on agriculture again ignores history and analysis. Despite promises of greater agricultural sales, the U.S. deficit with the existing 17 free trade agreement countries totaled $39.6 billion from 1989 through 2008. The Trade Commission projects trade deficits with Korea in soy, cattle, sheep, goats, horses, wheat, alfalfa, corn, sugar, rice, oats, cotton and other agricultural products.
KORUS trade deficits will result in a net job loss of 159,000, according to the Economic Policy Institute. As this nation recovers from previous trade deals that have eliminated more than 50,000 plants and five million jobs in the last decade, more of the same is not the answer. Mr. Luetkemeyer should reconsider his position.
As author Rita Mae Brown said in her book "Sudden Death," “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”
Darin Gilley lives in Pacific.