Obama's rhetoric versus reality on Korea free trade pact

Thomas Lifson
Barack Obama talks a fine-sounding game about renewing our diplomacy and earning international respect. But when push comes to shove and key domestic political support is at stake, he is behaving like a craven pol, toadying to special interests and sacrificing a key ally that has made positive steps toward deeper relations.

Case in point: the pending free trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea. The Asian Wall Street Journal captures  the hypocrisy:

In a statement inserted in the Congressional Record last week, Mr. Obama said he believes the [FTA] pact doesn't pay "proper attention" to America's "key industries and agricultural sectors" like cars, rice and beef. These also happen to be key special interests for the Democrats in terms of fund raising and are dominant industries in electoral swing states.

Try squaring Mr. Obama's views on the FTA with his criticism of the Bush Administration's policy of not negotiating with unfriendly regimes, taken straight from an online position paper: It "makes us look arrogant, it denies us opportunities to make progress, and it makes it harder for America to rally international support for our leadership." Or consider this promise from his Asia policy paper: Mr. Obama "will maintain strong ties with allies like Japan, South Korea and Australia" and "work to build an infrastructure with countries in East Asia that can promote stability and prosperity."

Few strategic relationships are more delicate or more important than South Korea. Aside from the obvious fact that it shares a border with a nuclear dictatorship run by arguably the worst government in the world, South Korea is a shining example [along with Taiwan] of a country which has raised itself out of dire poverty, war wreckage  and high unemployment into European-level prosperity. South Korea's electorate has not grown in sophistication at nearly the pace of the economy, though. It is absolutely in our national interest to foster deeper trade relations via far-reaching tariff reduction.

Soaring rhetoric is one thing; actually making the tradeoffs necessary to keep a nation and economy running is quite another.

Hat tip: Ed Lasky
Barack Obama talks a fine-sounding game about renewing our diplomacy and earning international respect. But when push comes to shove and key domestic political support is at stake, he is behaving like a craven pol, toadying to special interests and sacrificing a key ally that has made positive steps toward deeper relations.

Case in point: the pending free trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea. The Asian Wall Street Journal captures  the hypocrisy:

In a statement inserted in the Congressional Record last week, Mr. Obama said he believes the [FTA] pact doesn't pay "proper attention" to America's "key industries and agricultural sectors" like cars, rice and beef. These also happen to be key special interests for the Democrats in terms of fund raising and are dominant industries in electoral swing states.

Try squaring Mr. Obama's views on the FTA with his criticism of the Bush Administration's policy of not negotiating with unfriendly regimes, taken straight from an online position paper: It "makes us look arrogant, it denies us opportunities to make progress, and it makes it harder for America to rally international support for our leadership." Or consider this promise from his Asia policy paper: Mr. Obama "will maintain strong ties with allies like Japan, South Korea and Australia" and "work to build an infrastructure with countries in East Asia that can promote stability and prosperity."

Few strategic relationships are more delicate or more important than South Korea. Aside from the obvious fact that it shares a border with a nuclear dictatorship run by arguably the worst government in the world, South Korea is a shining example [along with Taiwan] of a country which has raised itself out of dire poverty, war wreckage  and high unemployment into European-level prosperity. South Korea's electorate has not grown in sophistication at nearly the pace of the economy, though. It is absolutely in our national interest to foster deeper trade relations via far-reaching tariff reduction.

Soaring rhetoric is one thing; actually making the tradeoffs necessary to keep a nation and economy running is quite another.

Hat tip: Ed Lasky