Nebraska farm group rips Korea free-trade pact, says it has harmed U.S. economy — and what was left out…

Nebraska farm group rips Korea free-trade pact, says it has harmed U.S. economy

By Russell Hubbard / World-Herald staff writer | Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 1:00 am

The Nebraska Farmers Union joined with trade activists Monday to oppose a free-trade pact with Korea that the group says has hurt the U.S. economy.

John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union, said on a conference call hosted by Public Citizen Global Trade Watch that exports to South Korea have fallen and imports from South Korea have increased since the United States and the Asian nation agreed to a free-trade pact in 2012.

Public Citizen said the free-trade pact is the model for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade agreement the U.S. is negotiating with 11 Asian and South American countries.

“We are not having a fair opportunity to be able to sell our products into other economies, but we have the welcome mat out to competition coming into our economy,” Hansen said.

The call also featured commentary by others who said they were harmed by Korean free-trade, including an Alabama steelworker and a Connecticut business owner.

In each case the complaint was that the U.S. had lowered tariffs and trade barriers with South Korea but hasn’t promoted cross-ocean commerce. Nebraska beef exports to South Korea, for example, have fallen 5 percent in the past three years, Public Citizen said on the call. Overall, the deal has cost 85,000 U.S. jobs, the group says.

Though Korean leaders lifted a five-year ban on U.S. beef imports in 2008, some consumers have continued to have health concerns over the potential for mad cow disease and the use of growth additives in cattle feed.

Hansen said U.S. trade policy concentrates too much on the potential volume of trade without considering its profitability.

If a business proposed such an equation, its “banker would say ‘Go for counseling,’ ” Hansen quipped.