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Unions Ready to Fight Obama's Free-Trade Pact With South Korea

3 years ago
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President Obama very much wants Congress to approve a new free-trade agreement with South Korea next year, but some powerful labor unions are already lining up against the deal, fearful it amounts to an invitation to employers to move jobs overseas.

The AFL-CIO, United Steelworkers, International Association of Machinists and Communications Workers of America all said Thursday they intend to oppose the agreement, which would gradually knock down tariffs and other barriers to trade between the two countries.

AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington"We do not need to inflict further damage to our manufacturing base and the lives and livelihoods of our workers to prove the strength of our alliance (with South Korea)," the steelworkers said in a statement reported by the Washington Post.

The White House says the deal will grow the economy and support tens of thousands of jobs on the home front. And Obama has backing for the pact from some major unions, including the United Auto Workers and the United Food and Commercial Workers. Free-trade advocates says it will open up lucrative new markets for American automobiles, the aerospace and electronics industries, and farmers and ranchers.

Opponents, including some congressional Democrats, think it could cost jobs because of the anticipated influx of less expensive South Korean goods. It was originally negotiated by the Bush administration, but Obama sealed the deal last week. And a number of Republicans are likely to side with the Democratic president on this one in his effort to win ratification for the pact on Capitol Hill.

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