USW: USTR’s Renegotiation of U.S.-Korea FTA Should Help Save Jobs

The United Steelworkers (USW) released the following statement today on the agreement in principle reached in the renegotiation of the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS).

“Ambassador Lighthizer’s renegotiation of KORUS should help to save jobs,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. “KORUS was a bad trade agreement right from the start. The United States has racked up billions of dollars in new trade deficits and lost tens of thousands of jobs because of that agreement. In the steel sector, Korea’s predatory trade practices have been devastating. The quotas that the USTR has obtained should provide meaningful and lasting relief.”

“Korea’s trade practices have been especially harmful to U.S. producers of pipe and tube product,” said Tom Conway, USW International Vice President. “Oil Country Tubular Goods (OCTG) is a high-value, high-margin product. U.S. production has been decimated by Korean unfairly traded imports. Korea targeted the U.S. market and is also a transit point for Chinese products. By South Korea agreeing to cap its steel exports to the United States at 70 percent of the average export volume between 2015 and 2017, the specific reductions in this agreement will help restore market-based prices and contribute to renewed production and jobs here in the United States. Many of these products are essential to our energy independence and our national security.”

“We certainly would have liked to see other improvements in the deal as well,” said Conway. “For example, the rule of origin for vehicles in the original KORUS required only 35 percent of a vehicle to be produced with U.S. or Korean parts. That’s absurd. To put it another way, almost two-thirds of a car could be made up of Chinese parts and still get preferential treatment under the trade deal. That’s certainly not in our interest.”

“The Administration’s 232 decision helped accelerate this agreement and gave the USTR the leverage to somewhat improve KORUS,” said Gerard. “The original KORUS is a deal that never should have been signed. The Administration decided not to abandon an ally but fought to better promote the interests of U.S. producers and workers. It’s time to review, reform and, where necessary, reject past trade agreements. We can’t afford to continue on the current path.”

The USW represents 850,000 workers in North America employed in many industries that include metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining and the service and public sectors.

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