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US labor groups to join forces in anti-FTA rallies

Korea Herald | 2006.05.25

U.S. labor groups to join forces in anti-FTA rallies

By Jin Hyun-joo

U.S. labor groups will join forces with Korean counterparts for rallies in Washington early June against a proposed free trade agreement, the nation’s militant labor group said yesterday.

"We agreed to cooperate with American labor groups such as the AFL-CIO and Change to Win Coalition to cope with the Korea-U.S. FTA," the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions told a news conference yesterday, saying the agreement was made during its visit to the United States between May 15-19.

Some 60 members of Korea’s anti-FTA group, consisting of the KCTU and Coalition of Farmers’ Associations, will travel to the United States to hold protests during June 4-7.

They are concerned, among other things, that opening up the farming markets through the trade pact will severely undermine the local agriculture sector.

The KCTU said that the two sides shared thoughts that the FTA will bring benefit only to companies, not workers. "The FTA does not reflect the interests of farmers and laborers," KCTU vice president Huh Yong-gu told The Korea Herald.

He said the American laborers learned a lesson from the North America Free Trade Agreement in 1994 when employees faced massive lay-offs. "They told us the FTA, which is similar to NAFTA, is ’unacceptable,’" he said.

The two sides plan to issue a joint statement, participate in demonstrations and hold a seminar.

U.S. labor representatives will pay a reciprocal visit to Korea in mid-July when the second round of FTA negotiations are planned to be held in Seoul.

On June 5, the group plans to stage a demonstration in front of the venue where FTA negotiators from the two countries are scheduled to begin their first official talks. The talks are to last until June 9 in Washington.

The group will also hold a news conference that day at the National Press Club next to the White House and on June 7 in front of the Congress building.

During its trip to the United States, it will also meet officials of the United States Trade Representative and U.S. lawmakers.

Brushing aside the Korean government’s concern over possible violence, the group offered assurances that the protests will be staged in a peaceful and legitimate manner.

"With the attendance of attorneys in the United States, we reported all rally procedures to the authorities and registered for legal rallies," Huh said.

Earlier this month, the government called for scrapping the group’s plan, saying it may seriously dampen the relationship between Korea and the United States.

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 source: Korea Herald