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Obama to submit Korea, Colombia, Panama FTAs

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The fight over ratifying dumb trade agreements could start tomorrow.  The Hill has the article.  Unfortunately, the only talking points against the deal are limited to labor rights and Colombia.  Not to diminish those issues, but the main issue is to have a national trade strategy that creates jobs, wealth and growth here.

The FTA’s of the past have resulted in trade deficits.  And the government study on the Korea FTA says that the result will be net imports in U.S. trade with other countries.

Two main points.

1.  Trade occurs without trade agreements.  Indeed, our trade performance is often better without a trade agreement that restricts our freedom of economic action.

2.  Past trade agreements cause trade deficits.  Bad idea.  Fire the negotiators who fail to address the multiple tools of state-managed capitalism and non-tariff barriers like currency manipulation, valued added taxes, and state subsidies.

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Obama moves forward on trade
By Vicki Needham     - 05/04/11 02:25 PM ET

U.S. trade officials on Wednesday cleared the way for Congress to vote on trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

The Obama administration will send all three pending trade deals to Capitol Hill as early as Thursday to begin technical discussions, the first step in the process of ratifying the pacts.

The White House completed work on the Korean deal in December and wrapped up final details with Panama last month. The administration has pushed for Congress to act quickly on the Korean accord, but Republicans threatened to stop all trade-related nominations unless the Colombia and Panama deals were also sent for approval.

The Colombia deal is more controversial with Democrats and organized labor because of charges that that country’s government has not done enough to convict those responsible for violence against union organizers.
Trade officials announced the deal with Colombia last month but made the agreement contingent on Colombia’s fulfillment of several more requirements regarding the nation’s labor laws.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk sent a letter to leaders of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees Wednesday indicating that Colombia has taken the necessary steps consistent with the action plan set out by the two countries.

“Today’s announcement is a critical victory in our efforts to pass the Colombia Free Trade Agreement and for U.S. ranchers, farmers and manufacturers,” Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said in a statement. “This trade agreement means new jobs for American workers and a $2.5 billion economic boost for the U.S. economy.”

Leading House Democrats on trade matters expressed concerns over the agreement.

“The question raised by the U.S.-Colombia [free trade agreement] is, Will workers be able to exercise their basic internationally recognized rights and be free from the threat of violence?” said House Ways and Means ranking member Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), ranking member for the Subcommittee on Trade, in a statement. “That question has not been answered yet, and we intend to continue aggressively focusing on strengthening and implementing the action plan.”

McDermott and Levin said U.S. workers should not have to “compete with workers whose rights are suppressed, or who are killed in the exercise of those rights.”

“The U.S.-Colombia FTA must meet this standard,” they said.

Administration officials said they will consult with Congress to determine a timeline on moving the trade agreements. Democratic and Republican lawmakers who support the trade agreements have pressed the administration to complete the deals by July 1.

Republicans have called for the three deals to be completed in quick succession, and officials on Wednesday said each agreement would receive a separate vote.

“I hope by early summer that we can begin to see movement on all three,” Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said Wednesday. “Now, it may not be all at once. It may not be one vote. A lot of people have asked about that. I hope they’re somewhat contemporaneous. But I don’t think it’s all going to be one vote in one day.”

Camp said he thinks all three will pass the House in bipartisan votes.

Baucus expressed support for all three agreements based on Kirk’s assurance that discussions will continue on concerns that exports of U.S. beef are limited to Korea. The Agriculture Department also announced an additional $1 million to promote the plan, while the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) announced the creation of a five-year, $10 million initiative to promote U.S. beef in Korea.

In meetings with lawmakers in Seoul last week, Korean trade officials reiterated that they were handling a maximum amount of beef imports from the United States.

Baucus said restrictions on U.S. beef based on reports of mad-cow disease in the last decade are “scientifically unjustified and inconsistent with international standards.”

Aside from the three deals, the administration is seeking a reauthorization of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program (TAA), which helps U.S. workers who have lost their jobs because of foreign trade, and the Andean Trade Preferences Act (ATPA), which lowers the tariffs on goods from Andean countries as a means of stopping the narcotics trade.

The White House also wants the renewal of other trade preference programs and approval of Permanent Normal Trade Relations for Russia as that country joins the World Trade Organization.

An official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said there could be a “grand bargain” on trade.

“In the weeks ahead, the United States has a chance to move forward in a bipartisan fashion to secure approval of the pending trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama,” John Murphy, vice president for international policy at the Chamber, said in a blog post.

Pressure to approve the South Korean trade deal has increased because of other trade pacts signed in the region.

After delaying the vote at the end of last week, South Korea’s parliament ratified a free trade agreement with the European Union in a one-sided vote pushed through by the ruling party against opposition wishes.

Bernie Becker contributed to this story.

One Response to “Obama to submit Korea, Colombia, Panama FTAs”

  1. Darin says:

    Even the American Farm Bureau is pushing for these deals. Despite the fact that Columbia has all the signs of adding massive amounts of beef to our trade deficit. Check out R-CALF USA for their report. I am sure the Farm Bureau members that raise cattle are not being told the truth.

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