Longtime lobbying campaign pays off for South Korea with recent trade deal


Trade agreements stem from long-winded talks, some heavy handed diplomacy and, as it turns out, a substantial amount of lobbying. The newest trade deal between South Korea and the U.S. was a massive operation which cost the Koreans $39.9 million in lobbying and PR fees in 2010 alone.

The Department of Justice shows nineteen international contracts currently operating with South Korean entities. Four of those contracts are primarily for lobbying. Four deal with public relations. Three promote trade. Another three offer policy consultation. Other firms provide tourism promotions and distribute broadcast material. In 2009, the Korea lobby spent slightly more, 41.9 million. See more details on lobbying contacts for 2009 here.

Lobbying hot shots at Akin Gump, Daniel J. Edelman, Fierce Isakowitz & Blaloc, Patton Boggs and Thomas Capitol Partners have specifically been working on this task.  In July, the lobbying arsenal got even bigger with the addition of Podesta Group. 

But it was not just foreign interests that lobbied on the Korean trade agreement. Senate electronic records show reform of Korean trade as an issue starting in 2000.

Large multinationals weighed in to influence legislators about the Korean Free Trade Agreement. From companies as big as Nokia, to the humble Nebraska Farm Bureau, a range of players made their voices heard. Some of the most notable companies that lobbied on this issue were Chevron, HP, Ford, US Rice Producers Association, Google, Kraft Foods, Pfizer, American Meat Institute, and Dunkin Brands. For most of these companies and conglomerates Korean trade was one of many issues on their lobbying agenda. 

Although it does not register to lobby, the US – Korea FTA Business Coalition which has a wide membership of 942 businesses and organizations has also lauded the agreement. In the past few years, they have accrued a vast membership and hosted events to engage key business constituencies and see the agreement through.

On the other hand, the most outspoken voice against Korean free trade has been Public Citizen. They lobbied against the bill claiming that it would have the negative effects on American jobs. Similarly, the AFL-CIO lobbied against the agreement because they estimated that it could displace 159,000 U.S. jobs. In contrast, the United Auto Workers supported the recent trade deal as “a dramatic step toward changing from a one-way street to a two-way street for trade between the U.S. and South Korea."