"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Bipartisan Agreement: Obama Must Move Korea, Colombia, Panama Trade Pacts Now; GOP: Further Delay “Inexcusable”

March 15th, 2011 by mopns · No Comments

The AP reported yesterday, “Senate Republicans on Monday raised the stakes in their showdown with President Barack Obama over trade policy, saying they will block the confirmation of a new Commerce secretary until the administration submits to Congress three pending free trade agreements.

“The administration says it is ready to submit the trade agreement with South Korea to Congress for ratification, but says it needs a little more time for the other two, with Colombia and Panama. Republicans in both the House and Senate have said that is unacceptable, and they would not act on the South Korea deal unless all three pacts are submitted as a package.

“In the latest move Monday, 44 Senate Republicans sent Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., a letter initiated by Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio saying that until the president submits all three agreements ‘we will use all the tools at our disposal to force action, including withholding support for any nominee for Commerce secretary and any trade-related nominees.’”

Announcing the letter yesterday Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said, “[T]he easiest way — and the quickest way — to create new jobs for Americans here in America would be to finally ratify the three trade agreements negotiated by the previous administration that have been sitting there dormant for the entire Obama administration. The president, to his credit, says he’s in favor of doing all three agreements. What we have been perplexed by is the lack of willingness to initiate the process. Only Korea appears to be imminent. We believe that Korea, Panama, and Colombia all should be sent up forthwith, as rapidly as possible.”

Even key Democrat senators are saying it’s time for President Obama to move on all three trade agreements. As The Wall Street Journal editors pointed out yesterday, “The pressure on the White House to drop its passive-aggressive opposition to the Colombia and Panama free trade agreements is now officially bipartisan. That news came last week when Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus announced that ‘The time is here. The time is now. In fact, the time has passed to ratify the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. It’s long passed. We’re losing market share hand over fist.’” At the same hearing, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said, “I support the Colombia Free Trade Act. … This is good for our country and it’s certainly good for my state because we have a great deal of trade both ways with Colombia.”And Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) said, “I support moving forward with trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama … The time to act is now.”

 

The Washington Post also made the case for moving all three deals in an editorial yesterday: “With so much support for the agreements in both parties, why is the administration asking for more time? The substantive issues that the president has raised – Colombia’s purported indifference to labor rights, Panama’s status as a tax haven – were never as serious as he contended, and are well on their way to resolution. No one even tries to deny the economic benefits to American companies and workers of the two pacts, especially the one to open the much larger Colombian market. . . . Everyone needs to focus less on the political tit for tat and more on the policy case for getting these deals done as soon as possible, which is clear and strong. ‘It is time to identify the specific steps Colombia and Panama must take to move forward,’ Mr. Baucus said Wednesday, ‘so we can finally approve our free-trade agreements with these countries, increase U.S. exports and create jobs here at home.’ From a Democrat, that can hardly be considered unfriendly advice, and Mr. Obama would be wise to take it.”

The AP noted, “Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the top Republican on the Finance Committee, said his fear was that the administration would ‘let these two agreements wither on the vine,’ adding ‘we will not allow that to happen.’ He said that without completion of the agreements, $11 billion worth of U.S. exports to South Korea, $3 billion to Colombia and $1 billion to Panama would gradually be ceded to other countries.” As the letter from Senate Republicans said, “Any further delay of these agreements is unnecessary and inexcusable.”

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