President Barack Obama talked up the South Korean free-trade pact in his recent appearance before business leaders, continuing his positive rhetoric on trade.
But what’s still lacking is the kind of attention and urgency that would succeed in pushing the deal through Congress, which must approve it.
More worrisome, in his remarks, Obama made many wonder about the status of pending trade pacts with Panama and Colombia.
The odd language in his speech: “As we pursue trade agreements with Panama and Colombia …”
Pursue? Those agreements were negotiated years ago. The Colombian deal was then renegotiated.
Last week, the administration said it would “intensify” negotiations with Colombia and Panama, and one would be forgiven for wondering whether the White House plans to negotiate ad infinitum.
Those two countries lie in a strategically important region, one where U.S. influence is challenged by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Washington must do more to promote the spread of democracy and market economics. Free trade would provide U.S. allies with an important boost.
Economically, the South Korean deal is far more important. South Korea is our seventh-largest trading partner.
Trade is an area where Obama could work with the Republican majority in the House. Speaker John Boehner wants to combine all three pacts and move them on a single vote. It’s a good idea.
Obama has said he wants to double the nation’s exports by 2015. If he’s serious, he had better push harder for congressional approval of these deals.