McCain wants Thai FTA, Obama opposes it

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama this week renewed his opposition to the proposed free-trade agreement between the United States and South Korea, as well as other free-trade agreements in the Pacific region.

The junior senator from Illinois entered a statement into the congressional record on Monday, citing his “firm and unyielding” opposition to the Korean agreement until there is full denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

Republican frontrunner John McCain, former senator from Arizona, in a speech last February, lauded the FTA with South Korea, and specifically mentioned Thailand.

“Completing FTAs with Thailand, Malaysia and South Korea, in concert with the
agreements we have already struck with Australia and Singapore, should set the
stage for an ambitious Pacific-wide effort to liberalize trade,” he said. “Such
efforts have very tangible impacts.”

Talks on a US-Thailand FTA stuck before the Sept 19, 2006, military coup, over a variety of topics. Thailand has sought to protect key industries, and also is sensitive about the rice trade.
Obama, while opposing free-trade pacts, did say that an accord with Korea was important to American industries, including beef.

“I look forward … to supporting ways to increase our bilateral trade and
investment ties through agreements paying proper attention to our key industries
and agricultural sectors, such as autos, rice and beef, and to protection of
labour and environmental standards,” he said.

He added that the FTA’s current iteration “does not meet this standard.”

Sen Hillary Clinton, the other potential democratic presidential nominee, also has opposed the FTA, although she has not spoken recently on the subject. In a statement released last summer, Clinton said, “I will oppose the pending trade agreements with South Korea…. [T] he South Korean agreement does not create a level playing field for American carmakers.”

Clinton also has opposed liberalising trade with Thailand, particularly in the auto industry.

(BangkokPost.com with Agency reports)

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Jul. 8, 2010, 12:34:00 a.m.

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