Thursday, December 07, 2006

Solidarity Statement from Grassroots Global Justice

DOWN WITH THE KOREA-UNITED STATES FREE TRADE AGREEMENT (KORUS FTA)

Grassroots Global Justice [GGJ] stands in solidarity with the Korean Alliance Against Korea-US FTA (KoA), a South Korean coalition of 280 organizations, and Korean Americans Against War and Neoliberalism (KAWAN), a coalition of progressive U.S.-based Korean organizations to oppose the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement on the occasion of the 5th round of negotiations taking place from December 4 through December 8 in Big Sky, Montana.

Free trade policies such as the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement [KorUS FTA] have had devastating effects on the lives of Americans as well as workers in the partner countries. Politicians and big corporations claim Free Trade Agreements will encourage foreign direct investment, create jobs and jump-start economies, but the reality of NAFTA has proven otherwise. NAFTA sent formerly high paying manufacturing jobs to Mexico, forced Mexican subsistence farmers to migrate to the cities, and drove down wages and working conditions for both US and Latin American workers, leading many to risk their lives immigrating to the U.S. Recently negotiated FTAs between the US and Colombia and the US and Peru are threatening to devastate rural Indigenous communities and their land, agricultural industries and resources. The impact of these agreements is expected to mirror those of NAFTA.

The KorUS FTA is the largest trade deal for the US since NAFTA. It is part of a larger US strategy to negotiate bilateral trade agreements with nations of the global South, to avoid the blocks of opposition among global South nations against trade policies that singularly benefit the US. For the US today, Asia is an important continent of focus in the advancement of neo-liberal globalization after Latin America. This year alone, U.S. pursued FTAs with Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and South Korea, with South Korea as the first, most comprehensive agreement that will set the tone for the others. South Korea has also historically served as a base of operations both economically and militarily for the US in the Asia Pacific region. Workers and communities around the world have a stake in stopping this agreement, as it is an important symbol of US unilateral power and neoliberal corporate expansion at the expense of the people of the world.

Our ally organizations representing peasants, workers, students and community organizations in South Korea have projected that the KorUS FTA will devastate Korea's farming sector (1/2 of farming population would be displaced; national food security down to 5%); deregulate worker protections; privatize healthcare, education, water, communications, electricity, etc.; increase cost of medicine; introduce OTB and casinos to Korea; devastate the film industry, and many other important national industries and aspects of Korean culture.

As a coalition representing grassroots organizations based in oppressed communities within the United States, we understand both the potential impact of such trade agreements and the history of oppression that they are part of. Many of us are in the United States due to US foreign economic and military policy. The same neo-liberal policies and US wars have displaced us from our home countries across the global South in search of alternatives to poverty and violence, and pushed us into exploitative, low-wage work in the United States. As immigrant workers and communities in the US, we are criminalized, excluded and displaced as we join the ranks of the rest of the working people in US who face deteriorating housing, health care, public education, and social services in the name of neo-liberal globalization. Others of us represent Native, Chicano and African American communities who must fight daily to maintain our land, homes, culture and basic human rights and dignity. The Artic drilling project, the militarization of the US-Mexico Border and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina are but a few examples of the living legacy of the US's history of slavery, colonization and displacement within its own borders.

GGJ adds our voice to those of peasant, labor and community leaders from South Korea this week in opposing the trade talks and neoliberal globalization. We commend the work of the grassroots coalitions and supporters around the world who have taken a stand against the FTAs and continue to organize in the name of global justice despite repression. We draw inspiration and energy from you and pledge to continue to organize and build the grassroots movement for global justice in the US!

DOWN WITH THE KOREA-US FTA! UP WITH THE PEOPLE! UP WITH GLOBAL JUSTICE!

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