A group of United States congressmen yesterday sent a letter drafted with their legislative counterparts in Korea to Presidents Barack Obama and Lee Myung-bak urging the renegotiation of the U.S.-Korea bilateral free trade agreement, according to a U.S. trade online magazine....The full text of the letter is available here. The US signatories are Michaud and fellow Reps. Hare (D-IL), Jackson Jr. (D-IL), H. Johnson (D-GA), Kaptur (D-OH), Kildee (D-MI), Kilroy (D-OH), Kucinich (D-OH), Lipinski (D-IL), Mollohan (D-WV), Oberstar (D-MN), Pingree (D-ME), T. Ryan (D-OH), Sanchez (D-CA), Schakowsky (D-IL), Slaughter (D-NY), Stupak (D-MI), Sutton (D-OH), Tierney (D-MA), Tonko (D-NY) and Waters (D-TX). The letter rattles off the usual protectionist canards about "economic justice," protecting the environment, and FTAs and investment, and then adds a new, and kinda bizarre, one about services (probably requested by the Koreans).
Jang Hyung-chul, chief secretary for Democratic Party Representative Chung Dong-young, told the Korea JoongAng Daily that the letter was drafted in coordination with Representative Mike Michaud and 20 other U.S. congressmen and 35 Korean lawmakers including Chung. Earlier yesterday, World Trade Online reported on its Web site that the letter signed by the 56 lawmakers was sent.
The letter calls for restrictions on certain service industries and a revision of provisions on a dispute settlement mechanism involving foreign companies. Beef and auto provisions, the main stumbling block to the ratification of the pact on the U.S. side, were not mentioned.
Yet the thing that struck me wasn't the letter's trite protectionism. It was the absolutely tiny number of folks who joined Michaud in signing this silly thing. As you may recall, back in July of this year Michaud corralled a rather substantial 109 of his colleagues into signing a very similar letter demanding that the White House revise the KORUS agreement as part of the "new" FTA talks that Presidents Obama and Lee promised would be completed by the November 2010 G20 summit in Seoul. Now, only a few weeks before the November mid-term elections and with those pre-G20 negotiations not even started, Michaud could find only 20 other signatories. What gives? Did significant congressional opposition (almost 90 House members!) to the US-Korea FTA just up and disappear even though nothing - politically or substantively - has changed since Michaud's last anti-KORUS letter?
In short, yes, it apparently did.
Considering that the list of signatories on the October letter consists of only (i) the farthest of the House's far-left wing; (ii) a guy who's retiring (Stupak); and (iii) several big protectionists who are facing really tough re-election battles (e.g., Hare, Schakowsky, Kildee and Michaud himself(!)), the rapid deterioration of congressional "opposition" to the KORUS makes it pretty clear that it had very little to do with the agreement's substance and very much to do with politics. At this point in the election cycle, most campaigning House members just don't have time to sign on to another KORUS letter - only one is needed support their election talking point, thanks, and almost no voters get frothy over Korea these days. So the only ones left signing this "new" congressional letter are the far-left whackos, the guy not campaigning, and the really, really desperate folks who have absolutely nothing to run on except protectionism.
And those are exactly the signatures that Rep. Michaud got. All 20 of them.
Good luck, as they say, with all that, Congressman.