Free Trade With South Korea?

Posted on July 15, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

By Scott Orr

Scanning the headlines out of Washington these days, you’d think there was nothing going on but the fight over the debt limit. Well, that and Roger Clemons steroids trial.

But businesses are watching closely as the administration readies a free trade pact with South Korea, which it is preparing to send to Congress shortly. In a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the U.S.– Korea Business Council, White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley said a blueprint for the deal is all but on its way to the Hill.

“There is no time to waste fighting politics as usual,” Daley said. “If we do not act before the August recess, American business will suffer.”

That’s a very ambitious schedule, given the toxic atmosphere that has consumed the two parties’ leaderships over the debt limit. Both sides are further complicating the matter: Republicans by refusing to give due consideration to just about any Obama-backed initiative and the Democrats by bundling the Korea pact with a controversial extension of the nearly 50-year-old Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama.

The White House says the agreement will open South Korean markets to more U.S. Exports and that could mean 70,000 American jobs. But there’s a real deadline here if the United States is to stay competitive with European Union which just struck its own deal with South Korea.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and many other Republicans have indicated they will vote against the Korean agreement if the TAA language is included in the implementing legislation.

The Korean deal is important to U.S. Businesses, competitiveness, and jobs. Important enough that Republicans should drop their objections and the White House should allow the measure to come for a vote on its own merits.

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