Didn't Obama pledge to complete 3 free-trade deals?
The Wall Street Journal reports: "U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk on Monday appealed to congressional leaders to begin work "without delay" toward ratifying a free-trade deal with South Korea, even as Republican leaders continued to press to link such action with movement on trade pacts with Colombia and Panama." On Wednesday Kirk will be back to testify before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, as he promised to do before his trip to Colombia. There should be some fireworks.
The president of Colombia is practically pleading for ratification of the agreement that has been under negotiation for four years:
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos urged the U.S. on Tuesday to ratify the stalled free trade agreement as it stands, suggesting the Obama administration will face stiff resistance to demands for further steps on labor issues.
"What we want is a free trade agreement that we have already negotiated, which is held up in the U.S. Congress," Santos said in a statement.
While Santos has previously called for U.S. approval of the trade deal negotiated nearly four years ago, the latest statement is significant because it follows a U.S. fact-finding mission late last month to determine what additional measures must be taken before President Barack Obama is willing to submit the pact to Congress. ... A Colombian official confirmed there have been no discussions between the two governments on the free trade deal nor any new demands from the Obama administration since the U.S. interagency team visited two weeks ago.
A Republican Senate source tells me that Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) will push Kirk on the Colombia deal. There is no word on when, if ever, the Colombia deal will be sent to Congress, but the White House "promises to move ... like they've promised before."
Republicans insist on "three for three" -- completion and ratification of all the trade deals. After all, isn't that what Obama promised in his State of the Union address? The word one hears from Senate offices about the refusal to move forward on the Panama and Colombia deals is "inexplicable."
After all, each day and week that go by we lose market share to foreign competitors whose governments don't dillydally on negotiating access to overseas markets. How many U.S. jobs are being lost in the process? When talking about "investments," Obama likes to compare the United States to China. In some respects that is an inapt comparison, but in this case we are getting lapped by China and all other countries. Why is the administration allowing this? Presumably those Big Labor allies are more important to the White House than the jobs the deals will create.
It's about time that employers and free-market advocates speak up and challenge the administration to keep its word. There is simply no justification for the White House's foot dragging.
| March 8, 2011; 5:03 PM ET
Categories: foreign policy
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