Yesterday and today Starbucks-addled workers in Washington DC have been irked by booming drumbeats and shouts of “tawn dawn FTA!” (I think it means “turn down FTA”?). The people responsible are Korean protesters (see Fox News for the story), the same kind that made their presence felt during the recent WTO talks in Hong Kong. On my way to an appointment today, I literally bumped into the group of about 100 protesters in the crosswalk in front of the White House on 17th Street and H. Of course I got out my brand spanking new camera phone and took some snapshots:
These people are chiefly farmers who don’t want their “crops” ravaged by exposure to free trade. I’m sympathetic to the argument that it’s necessary for a country to preserve a certain amount of farmland just in case the globalized system collapses. And I am not 100% in favor of free trade in every sector, such as entertainment, whose protection allows for business models that foster diverse expression that could easily be stamped out by major countries’ imports. But the fact of the matter is the Korean agricultural interests just want to preserve their cushy government protection at the expense of consumers. They can’t be allowed to derail an agreement that’s going to be crucial for the economies and trade policies of the US and Korea.
UPDATE (6/7/2006): The protester are marching past my office again. The drummers sound like an actual marching band, except I think they’re using some kind of Korean drums. One reason the protests are so small (100 or so) is because many of the Koreans who wanted to join them were denied visas. The irony is that one of the benefits that the US-Korea will be Korea’s addition the State Dept’s visa waiver program, which would make it easy for any Korean who had the notion to come to Washington and protest the hell out of free trade.