Jane Hamsher: What Obama Fights For – Giving $9.55 Billion to North Korea to Spend on Nukes

Yves here. This issue may seem a bit off topic to NC readers, but this subsidy to a state we treat as a mortal danger, and at a time of severe expenditure-cutting, illustrates the degree to which business interests drive American policy.

By Jane Hamsher. Cross posted from FireDogLake.

Yesterday the White House took the last step to owning all three leftover Bush NAFTA-expansion deals with Korea, Colombia and Panama by announcing that they would send them to Congress imminently. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that we’ll lose 159,000 jobs with the Korea deal alone.

At a time of high unemployment, it’s difficult to fathom why the President would be fighting to increase our trade deficit and ship tens of thousands of jobs overseas.

Even more stunning, however, is the loophole in the Obama deal that will hand billions over to North Korea to spend on their nuclear weapons program (PDF).

Under the terms of NAFTA, goods have to have 50% domestic-made content in order to qualify for inclusion. However under KORUS, goods with up to 65% non-South-Korean content qualify, as long as final assembly off goods happens in South Korea. That means 65% of all parts can be made China, Vietnam, wherever — giving rise to fears that the South Korea deal will be a back-door extension of NAFTA for China.

But surely, somebody thought to exclude North Korean content from the deal, right? I mean, with all the huffing and puffing about the need for increased sanctions against North Korea to keep them from funding their nuclear program. At the very least, somebody must have included language in KORUS that makes an exception for US sanctions against North Korea, which would otherwise violate NAFTA’s ban on import licenses.

Well if that’s what you thought, you would be wrong.

Every day, 44,000 North Koreans are marched into a North Korea border sweat shop zone called Kaesong to work for 28 center per hour — of which the Kim regime keeps 55%. In 2007 Ambassador Jay Lefkowitz, the U.S. Special Envoy for Human Rights in North Korea, wrote that Kaesong was one of the only sources of cold hard currency North Korea had to fund its nuclear program:

Because the North Korean government takes a major portion of workers’ salaries, these arrangements provide material support for a rogue government, its nuclear ambitions, and its human rights atrocities.

According to research done by Public Citizen, Obama’s NAFTA-Korea deal not only fails to exclude North Korean content, it allows for a massive expansion of the Kaesong district — and the profits that North Korea will reap (PDF):

The U.S. government estimates that the North Korean government currently collects $3 million to $4 million a month from the Kaesong operations now, prior to a massive planned expansion of the border sweatshop zone. South Korea cut off most trade with North Korea after attacks last year, but left Kaesong trade open. There was $1.9 billion in total trade between the two Koreas in 2009, about half of which was through production by South Korean firms in Kaesong. While $1.9 billion is not a lot of money relative to the U.S. or South Korean economy, it constitutes more than a third of North Korea’s total external trade. Given the Department of Defense estimates that North Korea’s nuclear program cost the regime as little as $200 million to develop, the hard currency generated by North Korean trade flows is sufficient to finance the North’s nuclear proliferation regime several times over.

The North Korean government is projected to receive $9.55 billion in economic gains from Kaesong over nine years under a planned major expansion. This is equivalent to 36 percent of North Korea’s estimated national income. Hyundai and the Korea Land Corporation, the principal developers of Kaesong, plan to enlarge the complex from its current 800 acres to a more than 6,000-acre complex (or nine square miles), where 1,500 South Korean and other foreign firms will employ 350,000 North Korean workers. This would make the complex more than half the size of Alexandria, Virginia.

Is this an accident? Hardly. Members of Congress like Brad Sherman have been waving red flags about the dangers of the Kaesong provisions in KORUS. The Chamber is pushing this deal hard, however, and there’s a lot of money to be made in Kaesong. And as we all know, what the Chamber wants, the Chamber gets.

But let’s do the math here. The US government estimates that the North Koreans are 5 years and $200 million away from having nuclear capacity. I understand why KORUS would benefit the mega corporations that use the Chamber of Commerce as their front, the ones that hope to profiteer off of “slave labor” in Kaesong. But how exactly is it good for the American people to allow North Korea access to US markets? I just don’t see the upside to offshoring jobs, increasing the trade deficit and writing a check to North Korea to spend on nukes.

But then, few people do. Poll after poll shows that the vast majority of the American public – across stunningly diverse demographics – oppose these NAFTA-style trade deals. It’s an issue that has oddly united union members and Tea Partiers, progressives and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans in opposition. The AFL-CIO, Carpenters, Teamsters, CWA, Machinists, IBEW, Steelworkers, Painters, Boilermakers, the Sierra Club, Public Citizen and the National Farmers Union all oppose the deal., as do Republicans like Walter Jones, Ron Paul, and the Campaign for Liberty.

Earlier this month, even White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley (whose job is to sell these trade deals and who helped former President Bill Clinton sell NAFTA to a skeptical Congress) said that workers “lose from these agreements” and implied that campaigning against these NAFTA-style trade agreements could even be an electoral advantage.

But if we’ve learned one thing over the past few years, it’s that broad popular opposition is meaningless when it comes to Chamber’s ability to bribe impose its will on our elected officials. If KORUS passes, the hawks will soon be banging the war drums and warning us all that the smoking gun of North Korea has become a mushroom cloud, now is the time to act.

Because three wars are just not enough, I guess.

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  1. Peripheral Visionary

    I agree that we should be taking a long, hard look at any deal with the North Koreans, particularly any deal that puts money in their pockets. The arguments for dealing with North Korea have been based on the hope that dealing with them would help move the country in a more democratic direction. The same argument was used during discussions over our trade agreement with China – how’s that movement to democracy thing working out there?

    The other argument has been that, absent outside assistance, the North Korean people would starve. Of course the primary (and nearly exclusive) blame for that would be on its dictatorship, but if we want to provide humanitarian aid anyway, it should be strictly in terms of goods and not cash (although the regime will naturally use those goods as leverage over its own people, and will do what it can to monetize any goods that come within its borders).

    It’s a terrible situation all around. But that is not an argument for becoming more involved.

  2. kaj

    This man is mad; Obama needs to be thrown under a bus for the damage done to any possibility of return to the 1960s. A cheap con-artist who misled the unwary who were disgusted with Bush jr. Did you say 59000 jobs would be lost?

    1. Binky the perspicacious bear

      Because McCain/Palin would have fixed the booboo and made it all better.
      McCain, who already participated in the S&L bustout and barely escaped prison with his morally upstanding man friend Keating.
      Palin, who surprisingly raised taxes on the oil companies in Alaska and capitalized on Republican corruption so overt that they made hats that said “Corrupt Bastards Club.”

      1. Tiercelet

        So what?
        Yeah, McCain would’ve done the same thing. But so long as we let the entire spectrum of publicly permissible opinion be “What McCain would do” to “What Obama does,” we have no decent option.

        Better to send a clear message to our political classes that we are no longer willing to accept politicians who do not make a clear enough distinction from hard-right policies, and force some real populists to the top for once.

        Of course, we won’t really have a restoration of democracy until we have protests on the Cairo or Athens level going on regularly and continuously in Washington. Most Americans are too comfortable in their discomfort to spare time for such things.

    2. Jeff

      159,000 jobs…
      of course, many of those so called
      “jobs” lost will be to illegal aliens right here in our
      own sweatshops, or in “the USA” in places like
      the Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico and the other
      more vintage tricked out remnants of NAFTA and other
      Reagan and Clinton era attacks on the true American
      Working Class.

  3. 1234

    ” but this subsidy to a state we treat as a mortal danger”

    The reality is that all parties (China, So. Korea, Japan, US) have a realpolitik interest in keeping alive the current North Korean regime ad infinitum.

    China, Japan and Korea don’t want millions of refugees from a collapsed NK. South Korea doesn’t want to rebuild NK (which is in even worse shape than vis-a-vis GDR v. FRG). Geopolitically, a unified Korea (and the American public) would probably demand the withdrawal of US military forces–something the Sino-phobes at the Pentagon, in Tokyo, don’t want.

    1. scraping_by

      And don’t forget the domestic political advantage of enemies. Squeaky snarly Bush II was doomed to ride the poll numbers down until he posture “I’m a war president.” A statement that everyone heard but no one listened to.

      It’s actually a pattern: From Wikileaks we know that our ally Saudi Arabia finances Al Queda and the Tabliban. New York and London banks were among Ghaddaffi’s financial supporters, even as he was vilified pre-uprising. Regan postured about the Threat from Iran while shipping them arms.

      And now, Obama is destroying American jobs to finance part of the Axis of Evil. It’s a quality of our modern world that things which ought to be satire become simple truth.

  4. ambrit

    Do we never learn? This can’t be another case of “sure he’s a ruthless dictator, but he’s our dictator.” At least folks like Betancourt, Somoza, Trujillo, etc. pretty much ‘played the game,’ and let the Plantainistas do their thing. Kim is another matter entirely. His ‘sucessor’ looks to be a completely off the reservation strong man ruler. With all of the hoopla around bumping off old Bin Laden, it’s hypocritical in the extreme not to assasinate Kim and his sons. All empires have done it, we’re just the latest example. It just goes to show you, inconsistancy is the watchword for this administration.

  5. Externality

    The Democrats want to quietly cut Medicare by $400M and use the money to fund the trade agreement with South Korea.

    The Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA) said it was dismayed that the Senate Finance Committee would put senior citizens’ access to imaging, such as CTs and MRIs, at risk by proposing medical imaging reimbursement cuts to pay for the implementation of unrelated trade bills.

    The $400 million in proposed Medicare cuts would be used to pay for an extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, included in a pending free trade agreement with South Korea.


  6. Externality

    Large parts of North Korea’s nuclear infrastructure were built by politically-connected Western companies. (Even seemingly benign reactors and radiochemistry labs allowed North Korea to get valuable training, technology, and experience.) At least some of the foreign currency that NK gets will be quietly recycled into major Western construction and engineering companies — the same ones that profit from defense spending to counter the “North Korean threat.”

    Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, sat on the board of a company which three years ago sold two light water nuclear reactors to North Korea – a country he now regards as part of the “axis of evil” and which has been targeted for regime change by Washington because of its efforts to build nuclear weapons.

    Mr Rumsfeld was a non-executive director of ABB, a European engineering giant based in Zurich, when it won a $200m (£125m) contract to provide the design and key components for the reactors. The current defence secretary sat on the board from 1990 to 2001, earning $190,000 a year. He left to join the Bush administration.

    The reactor deal was part of President Bill Clinton’s policy of persuading the North Korean regime to positively engage with the west.

    The sale of the nuclear technology was a high-profile contract. ABB’s then chief executive, Goran Lindahl, visited North Korea in November 1999 to announce ABB’s “wide-ranging, long-term cooperation agreement” with the communist government.


  7. Zach

    Agreed – Obama is a mad hatter. And Jane knows better: its 6 wars – you’d call them all wars if we had a pilot in the cockpit instead of Nevada. Lighting up half of the middle east isn’t enough, why not the horn of africa?

  8. I was on CNBC y'all

    Way, way out of touch:
    “but this subsidy to a state we treat as a mortal danger”

    Many consider the US a mortal danger. And man oh man, do we subsidize the hell out of the Pentagon system.
    For the unfortunate citizens of the world’s imploding, paranoid super power, police state survelliance is more important than food stamps, and housing. You can get housed as a ward of the state, easier now then ever before.
    Any one got stats? Did the US kill more civilians in 4+ wars wars then died from starvation in N Korea last year? Anyone?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I’m speaking about the internal consistencies of our policies. The morality of them is a different matter, and if you followed this blog, you’d know I don’t approve of them.

      1. Good Habit

        Well, they are consistent –
        Create as much profit as possible for a handful of billionaires, and create as much misery to the overwhelming majority of mankind.

  9. Dave of Maryland

    Agreed, Obama is up to his usual venal crap.

    But the Korean angle, you need to consult a Korean expert, as nothing on that peninsula is as it seems. Reading Hamsher word for word, he is saying North Korea is an extremely poor country. Which it is. Presuming every cent they get is going directly into a nuke program is whistling in the dark. Setting up yet more sanctions simply condemns North Korea to more of the same. When did we give up offering carrots, instead of beating the world with sticks?

    1. Cynthia

      I find it rather ironic that Obama says he’s trying to create more economic ties with South Korea and other Asian countries in order to boost jobs here in the US, while at the same time he is letting American corporations get away with outsourcing jobs to Asia. But hey, I shouldn’t expect anything different from a man whose only claim to fame is being able to get away with doing the opposite of what he says he’ll do. And it helps that he is firmly embedded in the back pockets of some the biggest outsourcers of jobs, this side of the pond.

      With that said, I still think that it’s only a matter of time before the world’s largest companies that produce things other than food and bottled water are headquartered in Asia and all of their CEOs are Asian born and live there, forcing American CEOs to join the ranks of the unemployed.

      This is patently obvious to anyone whose head isn’t in the sand.

      Power always follows production, which is the heart of any economy. So when American corporations decided to offshore production to Asia so they could teach their greedy American workers a lesson and vastly overpay their CEOs while vastly underpaying their Asian workers, they dug their own grave and engraved their own tombstone.

    2. Peripheral Visionary

      We gave up offering carrots when regimes like the Iraq regime started using those carrots to control their own people and to sell on the market for cash with which to buy weapons (and when the distributors of the carrots were taking fat bribes for helping the recipients abuse the system).

      How about this: no more sticks and no more carrots. We don’t need to bomb North Korea, but we don’t need to trade with them either. Trade is a privilege, not a right. Wait for the regime collapse on its own contradictions, and until then, do nothing other than make it clear that our forces will help defend South Korea if they try anything stupid.

  10. MRW

    The elephant in the room, which Hamscher religiously refuses to touch, is Israel’s defense sales in Korea. Just look at the KORUS deal, and read between the lines: “However under KORUS, goods with up to 65% [up from 50%] non-South-Korean content qualify, as long as final assembly off [sic] goods happens in South Korea.”

    All in the last three months:
    Israel seeks more South Korea sales

    Korean Aerospace set to buy big in Israel

    Korea moves closer to selling T-50 jets to Israel

    Israel focuses on Korean, Italian jets
    “The Jerusalem Post noted “Israeli defense companies are seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts in South Korea that could be endangered if the IAF chooses the M-346 [Italy] over the T-50 [South Korean].”

    Doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure this one out. The Lobby at work. Why do American companies need this foreign business interference? We need the jobs here. Why are American taxpayers subsidizing the Israeli defense business through QIZs (started with the US-Israeli FTA, per the KORUS website) set up in our trade deals (which we should be curtailing anyway.)

    1. Because

      Yup. The Korean Pen. is considered one of the next big growth center in Asia. Especially North Korea which has alot of untapped potential for capital to make money.

  11. readerOfTeaLeaves

    I understand why KORUS would benefit the mega corporations that use the Chamber of Commerce as their front, the ones that hope to profiteer off of “slave labor” in Kaesong.

    I don’t mean to be snarky by stating that this is the ‘logic’ of the kind of economic structures we currently have in place.

    ‘The system’ is functioning according to its logic.
    And all those corporations are viewed as ‘persons’ by SCOTUS, whereas any of the slaves laboring – to say nothing of the rest of us – are ‘less personish’ than the corporations that hide behind the Chamber.

  12. F. Beard

    Frankly, communism is due for a resurgence as the West demonstrates once again that its system, banker fascism, is dangerously unstable.

  13. DF


    Thanks for the heads up. I sent messages to my Congresscritters telling them to vote against KORUS.

  14. decora

    Now I guess perhaps we have some insight into why the government has gone after Stephen Kim with the Espionage Act.

    It didn’t make sense at first. He is one of Obama’s 6 non-spy Espionage Act prosecutions (the others being Drake, Sterling, Manning, Leibowitz, and the unknown Wikileaks people)

    All he did was tell Fox News that North Korea was probably going to test a nuke. The CIA apparently didn’t like that story showing up.

    But maybe things are becoming a little more clear now. The CIA perhaps wasn’t just worried about some ‘classified information’, they were worried about a whole web of other things.

    By slapping an unprecedent Espionage Act prosecution on a State Department contractor, Kim, for a single phone conversation with a reporter, perhaps various groups in the US government are indicating to various parties in Korea that business shall remain good?

    This is pure speculation on my part of course.

    More info on Kim is at Josh Gersteins Politico blog and Jesselyn Radack at Dailykos and of course stephenkim.org

  15. IF

    Frankly, most of the numbers cited don’t add up. It is very hard to get from 28 cents an hour to 9B in “economic gains” – a very fuzzy term that has been dropped in the headline. The spending money that arrives in NK seems to be much less. Unfortunately a lot of the links are broken, so it is not possible to go to the original source.

  16. Bernard

    way to go. who could believe this if it weren’t America. at this rate, America will crash even more quickly.

    amazing. exporting jobs to Korea, North Korea, at that.

    with Democrats like that, who needs Republicans, oh i forgot there is no difference.

    lol. thank you American Taxpayer, keep the Rich and North Korea funded.

    3rd world banana republic, indeed.

  17. Because

    Sorry, but your numbers aren’t adding up. Your source is a “frock” as they call it in the intelligence community. His intell is wrong for a purpose.

    Nor is this information reveiling. Stick to what you do best.

    1. Francois T

      “Sorry, but your numbers aren’t adding up”

      Don’t assume that 55% of the salary NK will keep for themselves is the only source of cash for the deal. NK always negotiate and get more than advertised.

  18. Paul Tioxon

    This is a complex situation. The Senate Republicans just killed this trade package for the near term. They all boycotted the Senate committee, preventing a quorum to move it forward to vote. It seems, the cadre of rule or ruin is practicing the nation implosion tactics against a sure fire Obama win in 2012, where he will be less restrained with getting re elected. The earth is being scorched some more to prevent much meaningful social welfare legislation from funding or new entitlements being minted.

    See This:http://www.politico.com/news/stories

    But there is more to this story, it is a revelation of the commanding heights of capitalism, were government and business meet, to control the global system of flows of capital, and dominate the inter state system, all in the favor of the US Government and its business compadres. But, even the republicans do not care, their internal domestic power base is threatened, and their tactic of shutting government down, even if they incur the wrath of the international allies, state and markets, they do not seem to care, or fear the consequences. There are competing interests in the Americas that seek to rein in the Yankee Domination, of which the non Asian components of the trade pacts indicate. This will strengthen alternative initiatives from Brazil for terms of the commanding heights that favors them more and us less so.

    For the rest of that story, read here:http://www2.binghamton.edu/fbc/commentaries/index.html

    1. wunsacon

      >> Obama win in 2012, where he will be less restrained with getting re elected.

      What??? That implies he was concerned that if he DID anything for his base the past 2.5 years then he wouldn’t win re-election. So, getting re-elected was more important than doing anything for the people who elected him the first time? Why would I expect him to do anything for us the second time? Fool me once…

  19. Mark P.

    Yves —

    [1] You have built yourself immense amounts of credibility on finance-related matters and so have some of the folks, like Edward Harrison, whom you feature here. Obviously, you possess deep professional expertise.

    [2] Conversely, this article commits at least one extraordinary blunder: “The US government estimates that the North Koreans are 5 years and $200 million away from having nuclear capacity.”

    No. The DRPK _is_ today a fully-fledged nuclear weapons state. Including delivery systems: the North Koreans are in fact the current top proliferators of the relevant missile technology to regimes like Iran, Syria and others.

    [3] Sure, in 2006 Pyongyang claimed to have successfully conducted its first nuclear test, and some seismological evidence only ambiguously supported that claim. But in 2009 the second North Korean test, with more seismological evidence, was unambiguous, and Mohamed ElBaradei, then-head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, confirmed that it was now a “a matter of fact,” that the DPRK was a “fully-fledged nuclear weapons state.”

    [4] See forex: –

    “North Korea is fully fledged nuclear power, experts agree”

    [5] Point is, it took me literally ten seconds to google that, though I knew it already. Jane Hamsher, the author of the piece above, was ignorant of it and didn’t bother to google it. That’s bad.

    [6] Her piece is badly written as a whole. For instance, I can’t tell when the author writes about the Norkeans having or wanting “nukes” or “nuclear” if she means weapons or civil power reactors. In either case, she seems unclear that in fact the DPRK already possesses both those things.

    [5] Though the Norkeans do want more reactors for civil energy. They also want more fissile material for bombs.

    So, in fact, there’s a deadly serious debate that this article could have addressed, aside from the author’s boilerplate fulminations about the Obama administration’s general awfulness and about perfidious American corporate interests, which are matters most thinking people already have figured out —

    [6] The author writes, for instance: ‘But how exactly is it good for the American people to allow North Korea access to US markets? I just don’t see the upside to offshoring jobs, increasing the trade deficit and writing a check to North Korea to spend on nukes.’

    The thing is, there’s a obvious and very strong argument that the upside of allowing North Korea access to U.S. markets is that it maybe is the best outcome available — since at the tune of 36 percent of North Korea’s estimated national income it just maybe starts making them dependent on us — and is therefore cheap, cheap, cheap at the price.

    Because, alternatively, the worst outcome is pretty bad: the DPRK pushes the brinkmanship too far, nuclear war spills out over the Korean peninsula and many millions die; maybe, also, a missile attack on Japan occurs; and the larger result is severe disruptions in — maybe collapse of — of global supply systems

    That worst outcome is possible. The DPRK is a small challenger regime that with very meager indigenous resources has nevertheless for a half-century successfully defied the U.S. empire and most of the international system, and it prides itself on having outlasted the U.S.S.R., Saddam’s Iraq, and all the other ostensibly mightier powers that contended against the U.S. and have now gone into the ashcan of history.

    This is a regime that, indeed, prides itself its level of commitment being so absolute and bloody-minded that it even relegated between 2.8 and 3.5 million of its own citizens to death by starvation —

    This is also a regime that, according to accounts, may have traded nuclear materials to non-state actors explicitly to demonstrate to us that it’s prepared to do so and we’d better play ball. Sorry, no citation.

    [7] Not incidentally, famine may soon be coming to North Korea again. On the other hand, if we give Pyongyang money and materials, we shore them up and they’d like nothing better to be here when the U.S. is all gone — and they just might be capable of that.

    Indeed, arguably, the Obama administration is being played for a fool by Pyongyang, which is good at doing that.

    So, all kinds of debate to be had here.

    [8] Finally, though, it’s just my opinion that the author should have written the kind of article I think they should have written. I’m sure fulminations about Obama’s betrayals, NAFTA-type agreements, etc., are fine with lots of NC readersers.

    What’s not my opinion are the egregious factual blunders by this author, which are just sub-amateur. And so back to my original point —

    [9] Yves, you’ve built enormous credibility for yourself and you’re probably crazy to work as hard as you must to keep this site constantly supplied with posts as you do. Sometimes, you’re necessarily going to cross-post content from elsewhere — it’s great to see Michael Hudson and Bill Black here, for instance.

    Arguably, of course, NC is just another blog. Except it’s not, is it? And you’re clearly not just an ignoramus ranting away on the Internet. But this author was and that doesn’t assist your credibility.

    Obviously, you’re going to choose to try different posters here from time and you’re the boss of that. But my advice is that it wouldn’t hurt to hire a college student to do basic fact-checking on those different posters at $10 an hour and then write it off as an expense.

    1. and i

      So setting up a trade deal that creates 350,000 North korean slaves on the border, funds Kim Jong Il’s whackjob state, and vaporizes 159,000 American jobs is actually a good thing?

    2. Ricardo

      Didn’t one of the other posters comment about Clinton seeking engagement by helping them build some nuke plants? How did that work out again..

      You make two flawed assumptions. One that Jane Hamsher doesn’t know that NK has nuclear weapons and couldn’t be arguing that we don’t need to help them build MORE nukes. Very nitpicky, and more than a bit of a stretch. Jane’s no dummy. Which you illustrate by the round about attack on her character instead of dealing with the substance of her arguments.

      Two, that because North Korea needs to be subsidized to keep them from killing all of us, “I mean they have nukes oh my gosh!” we need to be doing the subsidizing. It seems to me some other country might know the region better and have the resources to fulfill that function. Like China for instance. Instead of loaning us the money to bankrupt our economy to give to NK, they could do it directly.

      1. Mark P.

        [1] Ricardo write: ‘Didn’t one of the other posters comment about Clinton seeking engagement by helping them build some nuke plants? How did that work out again..”

        Badly. You must be a supporter of the Bush 2 regime and its policy toward the DPRK?

        Except that worked out badly too, since North Korea got particularly aggressive in response, abrogated the NPT and achieved breakout. In fact, there are no good choices with North Korea and you may note that I say that this was a debate this Hamscher person could have addressed.

        [2] “You make two flawed assumptions … that Jane Hamsher doesn’t know that NK has nuclear weapons and couldn’t be arguing that we don’t need to help them build MORE nukes. Very nitpicky, and more than a bit of a stretch.”

        ‘The US government estimates that the North Koreans are 5 years and $200 million away from having nuclear capacity,’ is what Hamsher wrote in her 10th paragraph down, 2nd sentence.

        Not a shred of ambiguity there. It’s an egregious factual blunder.

        “Jane’s no dummy. Which you illustrate by the round about attack on her character instead of dealing with the substance of her arguments.”

        I don’t care about her character and I might be favorable to her argument. However, if she makes a dummy’s blunder, then she’s very likely a dummy, and I’ll call it like I see it.

    3. JasonRines

      1) Fair criticism even though my first impulse was to defend a lady.

      2) NK had four or five nukes in 1994 based on CIA information. This was MSM news stuff at the the time, but most Americans didn’t pay attention. What happens ‘over there’ doesn’t matter mentality. That is changing and for the better.

      3) Your commentary highlights unmet market demand in digital publishing and debate platforms. Bravo. You’re bright!

      4) If you’re Mark Perry I think you are then you have the ability to realize changes in plans are necessary when they stop working. I believe you’re trying to be part of the solutions now instead of part of the problem. Bravo! I am growing weary of those painting broad brushes of ‘me good, you evil’. Are Communists good and Fascists bad? Other way around? How about about the middle road? Some of us have learned from history.

      5) You added compliment alongside cronstructive crticism. Good man Mark, you are remembering what it means to be gentleman and it isn’t about bow ties and tuxes.

      Peace and may you continue on this pathway.

      4) Market analysis/Ne

    4. IF

      I agree with basically everything you write and have to thank you for discussing it in detail. The original article was sloppy to say the least. Now Yves is and amazing one woman show, unfortunately she sometimes cross posts articles that are just not up to her high standards.

      1. and i

        Come on. You buying this tripe? Did you even read it?

        “[6] The author writes, for instance: ‘But how exactly is it good for the American people to allow North Korea access to US markets? I just don’t see the upside to offshoring jobs, increasing the trade deficit and writing a check to North Korea to spend on nukes.’

        The thing is, there’s a obvious and very strong argument that the upside of allowing North Korea access to U.S. markets is that it maybe is the best outcome available — since at the tune of 36 percent of North Korea’s estimated national income it just maybe starts making them dependent on us — and is therefore cheap, cheap, cheap at the price.”

        Hell, let’s buy some coke off the Guatemalans, and some heroin off the Afghanis, maybe see if we can buy some diamonds off RUF? Oh wait.

        You need to bring your thinking cap with you, buddy.

    5. lambert strether

      NK not my area of expertise. But not Hamsher’s either. So I thought the placement of this article was odd. Why is this issue worth a cross-post to her?

      1. and i

        Maybe we can find a Jonathan Gruber type to tell us about it, hah? Ms. Hamsher and her eye for corruption are held in high esteem by many people. Do you think it’s possible Yves is one?

  20. doom

    Whether the agreement is permissible seems to depend on the panel of experts’ interpretation of paragraph 18 in the UNSC resolution [1874, (2009)] that authorizes tightened sanctions,


    Para 18 addresses the issue of resource fungibility. Don’t know about the controls that determine whether specific resources “could contribute” to the nuclear program, but it’s up to the experts to say. Sanctions that blocked humanitarian or development funds would be unauthorized by the UN, and therefore, illegal acts of war.

    I get that the point here is our trade-agreement fever but the security aspects are above America’s pay grade. If we do it under UN supervision it’s OK, otherwise it’s not.

  21. BondsOfSteel

    What’s to stop Mexico from using Kaesong created parts in the 50% of the goods they ship to us tax free under NAFTA?

    It seems the bug-a-boo is about the 65% vs 50%.

    Rather than trying to exclude North Korea produced goods, I’d much rather see them exclude goods produced with lower environmental or labor standards.

    1. and i

      Oh yes.

      Do you think environmental and labor standards get much lower than in North Korea then, dear?


  22. teejay

    Why are we borrowing $9.55 billion from China
    to give to North Korea to get them to play nice
    with their toys? Why doesn’t Clinton convince
    China to coax them with cash?

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