U.S. congressman demands elimination of N. Korean products from Korea-U.S. FTA

Posted on : 2007-06-12 21:11 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST

A U.S. congressman on Monday demanded changes to a tentative free trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea that he argued could allow the Asian trading partner to export North Korea-made goods to the United States.

Rep. Sander Levin (D-Michigan) sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab raising questions about a draft FTA annex that deals with "outward processing zones" (OPZs) on the Korean Peninsula.

South Korea and the U.S. had maneuvered around the sensitive issue of the inter-Korean joint economic venture, the Kaesong industrial complex, by agreeing to discuss in the future whether or not to include products from the OPZs in their FTA.

Kaesong houses a manufacturing complex where South Korean capital is combined with North Korea's cheap labor to produce price-competitive goods. Seoul had strongly pushed to have Kaesong covered under FTA benefits, but Washington balked at the idea of importing products made in a country the U.S. accuses of flagrant human rights violations.

The proposed agreement establishes a joint committee to consider whether and under what conditions an OPZ would be included in the trade deal.

Levin, who has already vowed opposition to the FTA, citing unsatisfactory provisions in the auto sector, said Annex 22-C on OPZs applies labor standards different from those agreed on between the Congress and the U.S. administration.

The annex directs the joint committee to examine the standards with "due reference to the situation prevailing elsewhere in the local economy and the relevant international norms."

"This raises a number of troubling policy and legal issues," Levin wrote in the letter, "To apply any lesser or different standard for goods from North Korea to take account of the situation prevailing elsewhere in the local economy would be wholly inconsistent with the recently agreed upon provisions applying basic international labor standards."

He said the annex also allows the administration to recommend Kaesong products be included in the FTA without congressional approval.

"Since neither is satisfactory, the conclusion is that Annex 22-C must be removed from the FTA," he wrote.WASHINGTON, June 11 (Yonhap News)

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