WASHINGTON – Presidential candidate John Edwards said Saturday he opposes a free trade agreement between the United States and South Korea, telling Michigan Democrats it would be bad for the auto industry.
The deal needs the approval of both countries' lawmakers. It would immediately eliminate U.S. tariffs on Korean vehicles, Edwards said, but leave in place a discriminatory tax based on engine size that disproportionately affects American cars.
"There are so many more Korean cars sold in the United States than are sold in Korea," Edwards told about 2,000 Democrats gathered at their annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner.
He added that South Korean workers are thrown in jail for fighting for decent wages.
"We need trade that works for American workers, which means there need to be real labor standards, real environmental standards" in the deal, Edwards said.
The former senator and vice presidential candidate from North Carolina praised Michigan's role in advancing the U.S. labor movement, calling it the birthplace of the middle class.
He also talked about some of his policy proposals, which include a withdrawal of forces from Iraq, universal health care and a repeal of some of President Bush's tax cuts.
Edwards called the Iraq war a "bleeding sore," and said Bush should sign legislation that would fund the war but also set a withdrawal date for troops.
Bush opposes a withdrawal date.
"If George Bush vetoes this bill, it is George Bush who's not funding the troops -- not the Democratic leadership of Congress," Edwards told about 2,000 Democrats gathered at their annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner.
Edwards, who has been out of office since 2004, is competing in a tough Democratic field that includes Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois.
He has been trying to use his Southern roots to distinguish himself as someone who can appeal nationwide. He has made alleviating poverty a central theme of his candidacy.
Edwards, like other Democratic candidates, has been actively wooing support from labor unions.