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Coble votes against Korea free trade agreement and votes for FTAs with Colombia and Panama

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Washington, Oct 12, 2011 | Ed McDonald (202.225.3065) | comments

 

    (Washington, D.C.)----The cochairman of the Congressional Textile Caucus tonight voted for free trade agreements with the nations of Colombia and Panama but against a similar pact with South Korea. U.S. Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC) said that while the agreements with Colombia and Panama will open up new markets for American manufacturers, the Korean trade deal would be devastating to the U.S. textile industry.

    "The agreement with South Korea will provide instant, duty-free access for virtually all textile and apparel products," Rep. Coble noted, "while giving U.S. producers no time to adjust." Congressman Coble added that the deal has a number of non-reciprocal tariff phase-outs that favor the South Korean textile industry.

    Rep. Coble said he was comfortable supporting free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama. These two nations, according to Congressman Coble, are "strategic diplomatic partners in Central and South America. Free trade agreements with these countries will boost our economy." Rep. Coble’s complete statement on the three free trade agreements is listed below:

    "At one time, North Carolina’s Sixth Congressional District was one of America’s manufacturing power houses. Over the years, our manufacturing strength has been compromised by discriminatory trade practices that unfairly benefit overseas competitors.

    "Unfortunately, the Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) is a critically-flawed trade proposal. With respect to textiles, South Korea has a highly sophisticated and vertically- integrated industry. In 2010, South Korea was America’s 8th largest supplier of textiles and apparel by volume. For example, yarns and fabrics, the largest component of the U.S. industry, South Korea was America’s 2nd largest source of imports this past year.

    "The U.S. textile industry is staunchly opposed to the KORUS agreement due to the fact that it provides Korean textile exporters with instant, duty-free access for

virtually all textile and apparel products, while giving U.S. producers no time to adjust. At the same time, KORUS has a number of non-reciprocal tariff phase-outs that favor the South Korean textile industry in key product areas.

    "We also understand that China could exploit the KORUS agreement by utilizing business relationships in South Korea to reach U.S. markets.

    "Our manufacturers are competing against foreign trade barriers, high tariffs, export subsidies, state-ownership of enterprises, and currency manipulation. The goals of this Congress should be to prioritize fixing U.S. trade policy, stopping manufacturing job loss, and closing the trade deficit.

    "South Korea and its people are true allies of the United States, and I value our diplomatic relations. As a Korean War-era veteran, I have witnessed first-hand how relations between our two great nations have improved dramatically over the years.

    "Unfortunately, I cannot support KORUS because it will do real harm to the North Carolina textile industry. I am sure that our two countries will continue our harmonious relations, but I am hopeful that we can reach a trade deal someday that is fair and equitable to both trading partners.

    "On the other hand, trade with Colombia and Panama does not pose similar threats to the textile industry in the United States generally and North Carolina’s Sixth Congressional District specifically. In fact, textile trade among these great nations is healthy and balanced – we trade raw materials, value added materials and finished goods. Furthermore, agreements with Colombia and Panama are far less likely to be exploited by countries such as China or Vietnam.

    "Colombia and Panama are strategic diplomatic partners with America in Central and South America. Free trade agreements with these countries will boost our economy, according to the International Trade Commission. A deal with Colombia will boost exports of goods by $1.1 billion and add $2.5 billion to our Gross Domestic Product. An agreement with Panama will greatly improve the export of American agricultural goods, manufactured goods, specialized services, and support other diplomatic efforts to close a notorious tax reporting loophole that involves money laundering and tax cheating.

    "The agreements with Colombia and Panama show the way fair trade agreements should be written. My hope remains that a similar deal can be reached with Korea in the near future."

    The South Korea free trade agreement passed the House by a vote of 278-151. Rep. Coble was one of 21 Republicans to vote against final passage. The Colombia trade package was approved by a vote of 262-167, while the Panama proposal was approved by a vote of 300-167.

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