Kaesong is target of U.S. FTA letter

Joong Ang Daily
6/13/2007

A U.S. congressman on Monday demanded changes to a tentative free trade agreement with South Korea, which he said 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” 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 to include products from such “zones” in their FTA.

Kaesong houses a manufacturing complex where South Korean capital is combined with North Korean cheap labor to produce price-competitive goods. Seoul strongly pushed to have Kaesong covered by the FTA, but the U.S. balked at the idea of importing products made in a country with such a poor human rights record.

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

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

“To apply any lesser or different standard for goods from North Korea,” Levin wrote, “would be wholly inconsistent with… basic international labor standards.”

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