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Reps talk of aiding Mideast

March 25, 2011

While the role of the United States in Libya is dominating the news, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) are also keeping an eye on foreign policy elsewhere.

Sherman has zeroed in on what he perceives as significant holes in the free trade agreement with South Korea, which President Obama hopes to see wrapped up by summer.

Sherman says the deal, which must be ratified by Congress, improperly allows products manufactured in a large North Korean industrial zone, called the Kaesong Industrial Park, to come to domestic markets, doing little to boost the South Korean economy and undermining sanctions on North Korea over nuclear policy and military aggression.

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Kaesong is six miles north of the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas. South Korean firms employ some 40,000 people there, but pay their wages to the North Korean government, which then pays the workers, according to Sherman.

Representatives of the U.S. Trade Representative have said they will author a letter stating that the U.S. discourages allowing Kaesong products from falling under the agreement, but on Thursday Sherman issued a statement saying he wants more.

“The language needs to be iron-clad — any goods produced at Kaesong or anywhere else north of the DMZ are banned from entering the U.S. unless and until a joint resolution is passed by both houses of Congress changing (the North Koreans’) status,” he said.

Sherman also said the agreement must block preferences for products that are partially fabricated at Kaesong and then completed in South Korea.

“That remains a huge flaw in the agreement,” he said.

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At a recent House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee hearing with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) took the long view on the revolutions rocking North Africa and the Middle East, seeking economic stimulus to help democracy flower in Egypt and Tunisia.

“I know when the collapse of the Soviet Union took place, we were in an economic recession and it didn't stop us from helping to rebuild Eastern Europe and help these fledgling democracies,” Schiff told Clinton on March 10. “Our current economic circumstances cannot cripple us from seeing the opportunity and the necessity of a vigorous effort now. How can we find the resources to help those countries economically stay on the path they are on?”

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