WASHINGTON – Republican U.S. congressional leaders urged President Barack Obama to work with them to win approval of long-stalled free trade pacts with Colombia, Panama and South Korea as early as possible in 2010.
"We agree with you that these trade agreements provide important new commercial opportunities that will benefit our economy and create jobs without adding to our nation's staggering budget deficit," House of Representatives Republican Leader John Boehner and three other top Republicans said in a letter to Obama sent late on Thursday evening.
"We ask that you jump-start the implementation process through your leadership, particularly by promoting all three of these pending trade agreements when you speak to the nation in your State of the Union address," they said.
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The letter followed a meeting between Obama and Republican lawmakers on Wednesday in which Obama spoke favorably about wanting to move on the stalled agreements, according to Republican congressional aides.
Obama opposed the Colombia and South Korean pacts during last year's presidential campaign. But since taking office, he has pledged to work with both countries and Congress to resolve concerns blocking approval of the deals.
"We offer our full support for your efforts and look forward to an opportunity to work steadfastly with you to implement each of these agreements as close to the start of next year as possible," the senior Republican lawmakers said.
Since a large bloc of House Democrats oppose the free trade agreements, Obama will likely need strong support from Republicans to win approval of the pacts.
With the U.S. unemployment rate at 10.0 percent, the White House has been looking for ways to create new jobs without adding to the already huge budget deficit. Proponents say approval of the free trade pacts would help do that.
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