Wednesday March 16, 2011 | 02:19 PM

An Obama administration-backed trade deal with South Korea would do more to harm U.S. workers than it would increase exports and boost the American economy, says Rep. Mike Michaud.

The Maine Democrat of the 2nd district took the lead in organizing a Capitol Hill news conference yesterday attended by about a half dozen other Democratic House members, all of them critical of the proposed South Korean trade pact.
 
Michaud, chairman of the House Trade Working Group and a longtime critic of international trade deals, said the White House focuses on increased exports to South Korea as a result of the agreement. But, Michaud, charged, there would be more imports from South Korea – as well as from China by way of South Korea – coming in to the United States than exports going out.
Michaud called the proposed deal a “fundamentally flawed trade agreement that will cost us jobs in the United States.”
 
Meanwhile, Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine were two of just three Republican senators who did not sign a letter threatening to block the nomination of a new commerce secretary to replace outgoing Secretary Gary Locke, Obama’s pick to become ambassador to China, if the trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia didn’t go the Senate floor for a ratification vote.
 
Collins did not sign the letter because she “does not agree with threatening to withhold support for a new commerce secretary even before a nominee is announced,” said her spokesman, Kevin Kelley. Collins wants to judge the nominee on his or her merits, “and separate from the issues involving the administration’s trade pacts.”
 
Kelley said that in “deciding how to vote on any free trade agreement, Senator Collins carefully assesses its potential impact on those employed in Maine’s manufacturing industries, agricultural sector, small businesses, and banking sector.  She also reviews the agreement’s environmental, labor, and human rights protections.  Should the Korea Free Trade Agreement come before the Senate, she would give it the same scrutiny.”
 
Collins’ trade pacts votes include one against the Central American Free Trade Agreement and in favor of a trade deal with Peru.
 
While waiting for the Korean trade deal to be formally submitted to the Senate, Snowe is listening to the views of Mainers regarding the impact of this proposal and to call on the Administration to enforce our existing trade agreements and protect jobs here at home,” said her spokeswoman, Kathryn Bruns.
 
Snowe “continues to have significant concerns regarding the administration’s unwillingness to enforce existing trade rules,” Bruns said, citing Snowe’s charge that the White House isn’t doing enough to combat China’s currency manipulation practices.

 

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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