US lawmakers seek to force action on trade pacts

Editor’s Note: Yes, just what we need to boost the American economy; more so-called “free trade” agreements written by nation-less corporations.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
© AFP/Getty Images/File Win McNamee


WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama’s Republican foes in the US Congress on Monday stepped up pressure on the White House to submit free trade deals with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama for lawmakers’ final approval.

Forty-four Senate Republicans signed a letter warning they would block confirmation of Obama’s next Commerce secretary pick and any other trade nominees until he sends the three agreements up for congressional passage.

“Any further delay of these agreements is unnecessary and inexcusable,” the group, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, wrote to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

“We will use the tools at our disposal to force action, including withholding support for any nominee for Commerce secretary and any trade-related nominees,” the lawmakers warned.

The threat came just days after Republicans — who have the votes to delay indefinitely a vote on a nominee — vowed to hold up the South Korea deal unless the president also moved forward with the other two accords.

Obama, who faces skepticism on free trade from part of his Democratic Party’s base, has publicly called for approval of deals with all three nations this year but wants time to fine-tune the packages with Panama and Colombia.

“What we’re talking about here is giving the president the incentive to go on and do what he said he’s in favor of doing, which is all three agreements. And I think it’s a perfectly reasonable way to incentivize him,” McConnell said.

But Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, whose panel has jurisdiction over trade, warned “this tactic is a diversion from our goal and is simply not the way to ensure their passage.”

Baucus, a Democrat who supports the accords, said they would “boost US exports, improve our economy and create jobs here at home” and urged his colleagues: “It is time for us to work together to approve these agreements.”

The Republican move came after Obama recently nominated Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to be US ambassador to Beijing, and was expected to announce Locke’s successor.

Republicans, who hold 47 of the 100 seats in the Senate, warn inaction will cede potentially lucrative markets to rivals like Europe or China and say the agreements could help create jobs amid stubbornly high US unemployment.

The United States and South Korea struck a deal in 2007 to eliminate most tariffs but the Obama administration renegotiated it, reaching an agreement to let the United States move more slowly on lifting auto tariffs.

The shift won over former critics including the Ford Motor Co. and the United Autoworkers union. But the AFL-CIO, the main US trade confederation, is opposed, saying that the deal would benefit businesses without fundamentally helping workers struggling in a troubled economy.

Obama says the South Korea trade deal would support 70,000 US jobs through new exports. Critics dispute the figure and fear that US manufacturing would suffer.

As for the Latin American deals, Democrats have voiced concerns about human rights including attacks against labor unions in Colombia.

Michael Froman, the deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, said that the Obama administration was negotiating with Colombia in earnest but declined to set a date or deadline to reach a final deal.

“All I can say is we’re keenly focused on resolving the outstanding issues and if we’re able to resolve the outstanding issues, we look forward to sending it to Congress as soon as possible,” he told reporters on a conference call.

Meanwhile, in the Republican-held House of Representatives, the chairman of the committee with jurisdiction over trade and one of his top lieutenants press Obama to act on all three pacts and said they would win easy approval.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Brady warned in a joint statement: “The longer we wait, the more market share US companies lose to foreign competitors and the fewer jobs we create here at home.”

© AFPPublished at Activist Post with license

Activist Post Daily Newsletter

Subscription is FREE and CONFIDENTIAL
Free Report: How To Survive The Job Automation Apocalypse with subscription

Be the first to comment on "US lawmakers seek to force action on trade pacts"

Leave a comment