Thursday, May 5, 2011

Baucus has no more beef with KORUS FTA

See how I did that? Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who is Senate Finance Committee, had been threatening to hold up the free-trade agreement penned by then-US President Bush43 and then-ROK President Roh Moohyun, mostly because South Korea stopped importing American beef (as did Japan) following the discovery of Mad Cow Disease in an American cow that had come from Canada.

But now that the Obama administration said it will pursue talks with South Korea on beef sales, Baucus is dropping his opposition, saying he will back the important trade deal.

Many tens of billions of dollars in potential trade of high-end goods and services are no longer going to be held up just because Baucus wants to sell a few dead cows.

From Bloomberg:
Baucus, whose committee has jurisdiction over trade, had faulted President Barack Obama’s administration for failing to win promises from South Korea to drop restrictions on beef from older cattle. He said today that a U.S. request for talks was enough to win his support.

“Our long fight for strong, science-based trade rules around the world to open foreign markets for American ranchers -- and keep them open -- took big steps forward today,” Baucus, a Montana Democrat, said in a statement. “Korea’s age restriction on U.S. beef is both scientifically unjustified and inconsistent with international standards.”
Frankly, I'm bothered by this line of thinking. Though I think the worry about Mad Cow Disease in Korea was over the top and irrational, it actually stems from such very unhealthful and often dangerous practices common in the United States, and Baucus is suggesting it's ridiculous for a sovereign country like South Korea to set its own rules. The whole international standards appeal in the face of South Koreans wanting to establish their own criteria smacks of some of the worst aspects of globalization that are accepted as routine.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office is saying that it will begin talks with Congress tomorrow on legislation to pass free-trade agreements with not just South Korea, but also Colombia and Panama. I don't like the idea of tying them all together, as South Korea is a better deal and lawmakers in Washington may feel compelled to accept problematic deals with Colombia and Panama in order for the country to get the economic benefit of the deal with Korea.

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