Obama’s Efforts to Create Korean–Not American–Jobs Gets More Cynical

As I noted this morning, Obama plans to “pivot to jobs” by creating them in Korea. (This video came from his statement today after the deficit ceiling bill got through.)

But his call on Congress to pass trade deals with Korea, Panama, and Colombia just got even more cynical.

First, because he says these deals will “help displaced workers looking for new jobs.” That word–displaced–is often used to refer to those who have lost their manufacturing jobs because they got sent to, say, Mexico in an earlier trade deal. “Displaced” usually refers to just the kind of people devastated by these trade deals. It seems Obama is pretending that new trade deals will create jobs for the people who lost their jobs because of earlier trade deals. But of course, last we heard, the folks who just successfully held our economy hostage were refusing to pass these trade deals with Trade Adjustment Assistance attached. In other words, chances are good that if these trade deals pass, they’ll pass with nothing to help those who are displaced because of it.

And note Obama’s promise to export “products stamped, ‘Made in America’.” Aside from the fact that a lot of what we’ll be exporting will be American-style fraudulent finance, not manufactured goods, his use of the term is all the more cynical given the likely reason he used it: because of the polling showing near unanimity that the US should make things again–like the 94% of Americans polled who think creating manufacturing jobs here in America is important.That is, he’s trying to co-opt the almost complete opposition to this policy–which almost certainly wouldn’t create any new manufacturing jobs here in the US–as a way to try to claim that trade deals that will result in a net loss of jobs will instead create them.

UAW Sells Out American Workers for 800 Jobs

The White House appears to be calculating that by getting the UAW to support the NAFTA-style trade agreement with South Korea (KORUS), it can avoid any discussion of the jobs that will be outsourced as a result of the agreement. Their big accomplishment, then, has been changing the original 2007 agreement enough to get the UAW–and Ford–to buy in.

The price for their buy-in?

55,500 additional cars.

800 jobs.

As this Congressional Research Service report on the original deal explains, one of the biggest reasons why a free trade agreement with South Korea sucks for the auto industry is that South Korea puts odd safety requirements on their cars. Because the market is relatively small, it is cost prohibitive to adapt existing models to meet those requirements.

For years, unique South Korean automotive safety and environmental standards have been a major concern for U.S. and European carmakers. Some of the flagged technical import barriers include front tow hooks, headlamp standards, tinted rear-windows, and vehicle emissions changes. Safety and environmental standards have the potential to add costs associated with compliance, thus both the KORUS and KOREU FTAs include provisions to address those standards viewed as unfair by some U.S. and EU automakers.


A country like South Korea can decide to require compliance with its own standards, making it expensive for foreign-based manufacturers to export cars to the relatively smaller South Korean market, or in some cases effectively shutting foreign producers out of the market altogether. Some in the United States government and industry claim South Korean auto standards are “unique, non-transparent and out of sync with international standards.”71


KORUS FTA permits “low-volume seller exemptions,” which allow each U.S. automaker to sell up to 6,500 vehicles per year in South Korea built to U.S. safety standards without any additional modification.72 The low-volume seller exemption nearly equals the number of cars sold by all three U.S. automakers combined in South Korea in 2009 (see Table 3). Some worry the exemption could act as a ceiling and effectively become a disincentive for U.S. carmakers to export more cars to South Korea.

In other words, the KORUS agreement signed in 2007 basically didn’t address the “non-transparent” safety issues that effectively exclude non-Korean cars; it just made an exemption that would cover the small number of cars already being imported in Korea.

Here’s how the White House hails their big improvement over that:

Safety standards have effectively operated as a non-tariff barrier to U.S. auto exports. The 2010 supplemental agreement announced today allows for 25,000 cars per U.S. automaker – or almost four times the number allowed in the 2007 agreement — to be imported into Korea provided they meet U.S. federal safety standards, which are among the most stringent in the world.

So one of the big concessions (it’s not the only one) in the renegotiated deal is the allowance for 55,500 additional cars a year into Korea.

It takes about 30 hours of labor to build a car. So the UAW got bought off for an extra 1,665,000 hours of work a year, not all of which will go to union employees. 41,625 weeks of work. Or work for 800 workers a year. In exchange for a trade agreement that the Economic Policy Institute estimates could cost 159,000 jobs in the next five years. (And in 10 years, after the duty on trucks expires, it would remove the biggest incentive for Hyundai to keep its SUV factories in Alabama, which account for 16,900 jobs, though those aren’t union jobs.)

800 jobs in exchange for losing 159,000 jobs–that’s the math the UAW has done.

White House Brags about Exporting our Pyramid Schemes to Korea

The list of statements of support for the Korea Trade Agreement the White House sent out last night tells you a lot about what you need to know about the trade agreement. Among others on the list are Tom Donohue, whose laundering of foreign money into election coffers had a significant role in the shellacking Democrats took in November. Donohue thinks this deal is great:

This agreement will create thousands of new jobs, advance our national goal of doubling exports in five years, and demonstrate that America is once again ready to lead on trade. The administration has done its part. Now it’s time for the new Congress to make passage of KORUS a top priority in January. We will do everything in our power to round up the votes.

Then there’s John Engler, who for a while as head of the National Association of Manufacturers instituted a policy of refusing to meet with Democrats.

Then there’s the CEOs of credit card nation, Vikram Pandit and Jamie Dimon.

But to me, the most telling endorser of this agreement is Dick DeVos, the CEO of Amway and perennially one of the biggest single funders of the Republican Party. DeVos is thrilled because this will help Amway meet their growth targets.

Like most companies, we support a more competitive playing field. This new trade agreement allows Amway to continue meeting aggressive growth targets, and gives a much needed boost for all export business in Michigan.

So we’re going to push through this trade agreement so Dick DeVos can expand his pyramid scheme, get richer, and funnel that money into the Republican Party.

But then, I guess that’s what Pandit and Dimon have in mind, too.

The Obama Disconnect: Arlington, Korea and Catfood

Marcy wrote earlier this morning about David Axelrod’s despicable announcement of Obama’s capitulation to the oligarchs on tax cuts (another lead balloon the Obama White House incompetently tried and failed to walk back). Later this morning, however, were a couple of events that put an even starker gloss on this pig.

First, was this from The Oval:

President Obama is in Seoul, South Korea, where today he said lawmakers in the United States should hold off on comments about his fiscal commission’s proposals to slash the federal budget deficit through spending cuts, ending tax breaks, and a revamping of the Social Security system.

“Before anybody starts shooting down proposals, I think we need to listen, we need to gather up all the facts,” Obama told reporters.

He added: “If people are, in fact, concerned about spending, debt, deficits and the future of our country, then they’re going to need to be armed with the information about the kinds of choices that are going to be involved, and we can’t just engage in political rhetoric.”

So, Barack Obama is in Korea lecturing Americans to suck it up and embrace the catfood he and the wealthy elite have deemed necessary to feed us in order to pay for their grotesque largesse. Notably, at the same time Vice President Biden was left to be the White House representative at the traditional Arlington National Cemetery ceremony to honor America’s Veterans, where Presidents usually pay their respects and appreciation to veterans and the military. Especially during a “time of war”. Obama couldn’t make it to Arlington for the Memorial Day Ceremony either.

But Mr. Obama could not be present at Arlington this time because he was in Korea. And just what was so pressing in Korea? As Jane Hamsher points out, it is the desire to press for a horribly conceived US-Korea free trade deal:

It would be a truly horrific blow to whatever is left of American manufacturing at a time when unemployment is rampant. But from a political standpoint, fighting for another so-called “free trade” agreement right now has got to represent some kind of death wish for the Democratic party.

Yes indeed, but thus is what we are constantly served by Barack Obama. As Paul Krugman today rightfully termed it, Mush From the Wimp.

You know, it is not just that the arrogant and cluelessly detached President Pangloss is steaming toward a one and done Presidency, it is that he is literally destroying the Democratic Party and liberal ideology in the process and leaving them in his wake.

UPDATE: I guess Obama couldn’t even sell crack free trade to Charlie Sheen the Koreans.