Tuesday, October 25, 2011

More and Better Opposition Candidates!

From the Hankyoreh:
Merchants of a traditional market in Busan’s Saha District carry out a campaign to urge voting, Oct. 24, two days before the by-elections. They hold signboards reading, “You casting a vote is beautiful!!” “Make sure you urge others to vote!!” and “State your opinion through voting.”
An editorial from the Hankyoreh:
According to an analysis of social indicators released this past April by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), South Korea ranked dead last among the 34 member nations in its voter turnout for parliamentary elections. The 46% rate recorded for the 2008 general elections was roughly half the rates observed in the top three countries: 95% in Australia, 92% in Luxembourg, and 91% in Belgium. It was also far lower than the 70% average for member nations as a whole. Germany recorded a rate of 78%, Japan 67%, the United Kingdom 61%, and the United States 48%.

There is a tendency among South Koreans to view interest in politics as a sign of backwardness and to make it the target of cynical derision...
That's depressing; I thought Koreans had a better turnout than the US.

From another editorial, "KORUS FTA in conflict with the Constitution":
... The KORUS FTA implementation law passed by Congress contains only some of the provisions of the agreement. It contains only four amendments to U.S. law. Even these are trivial, procedural rule amendments necessary for trade, related to matters like tariffs and proof of country of origin; there is nothing that disturbs laws or systems, as in South Korea. Article 102 of the implementation law, moreover, clearly states that U.S. law takes priority in cases where it clashes with the KORUS FTA. This makes it explicit that U.S. policy will not be violated based on the agreement.

The government explains such imbalances in the treaty by saying that the U.S. legal system is different. This attitude is one that respects only the U.S.’s legislative sovereignty. The National Assembly must now eliminate unequal article in the KORUS FTA, just as Congress has done in the U.S.

This reminded me of something that has been bothering me, at first only obscurely, about a lot of what I've been reading by Americans about Free Trade Agreements. It's almost always about the effects of these agreements on Americans: "our jobs" being "shipped to other countries," that sort of thing. Even this sensible piece, which also mentions Colombia's awful human rights record:
The Korea FTA is the most economically significant since NAFTA, is projected to increase our trade deficit in key “jobs of the future” sectors such as computers, high speed trains and solar and result in the loss of an additional 159,000 U.S. jobs.
This is a perfectly valid concern, but it often leads to outright foolishness, trying to imply that the US is a pitiful helpless giant brought to its knees by hungry orientals who suck our economic lifeblood for their own enrichment. It's possible to talk about the harmful effects of FTAs on the American economy without ignoring their harmful effects on the US "trade partners."

As many people have pointed out, when we hear talk about dealings between "countries," what is meant is the ruling elites, not the overwhelming majority of citizens. The richest, most powerful people in the US, as in Korea, Panama and Colombia, will benefit greatly from the FTAs, which "have only a limited relation to free trade." Again:
I don't understand how people can talk about "free trade" with a straight face. Apart from the transparent violations of free trade built into the World Trade Organization rules-monopolistic pricing guarantees that go far beyond anything in economic history, for example-what does it mean for political entities that rely crucially on the dynamic state sector for economic development (like the US) to enter into "free trade agreements"?
The same goes for "globalization," which as we usually encounter it is a doctrinal term that refers only to a limited range of interaction among countries, instead of "international integration, economic and otherwise":
So, at some level, workers and companies agree: everyone favours globalization, in the technical sense of the word, not the doctrinal sense that has been appropriated by advocates of the investor-rights style of integration that is built into the so-called "free trade agreements," with their complex mixture of liberalization, protectionism, and undermining of popular democratic control over policy.
I wrote before that the trouble with "shipping jobs overseas" is that the jobs being shipped aren't replaced with more jobs here. It's certainly a mistake to write as though our captains of industry and finance were exporting jobs for the benefit of them foreigners over there; of course they aren't -- they're doing it to benefit themselves.

It should be remembered just how global the "anti-globalization" movement is: contrary to the caricature of the movement in the corporate media, the protests against the World Trade Organization include not only American college students and union members but people from all over the world. including workers and farmers from Asia who've suffered from "free trade" being imported to their countries. This, I think, should be the background if not the focus of criticism of FTAs: not an exclusive concern for those who will be hurt here, but with the recognition that people all over the world will be hurt by them.