Tags: Republican Senators Press Obama on Bush Trade Deals

Republican Senators Press Obama on Bush Trade Deals

Monday, 07 Feb 2011 11:51 AM

Top Senate Republicans Monday urged President Barack Obama to push for approval of free trade deals with Colombia and Panama in addition to a pact with South Korea he already plans to send to Congress.

"We are disappointed ... not to see the same level of commitment from your administration for trade agreements with Colombia and Panama," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a letter to Obama.

"Both agreements were signed by the previous administration and approved by our trading partners more than three years ago. We urge your support in passing these through Congress without delay," the senators said.

Obama inherited the three free-trade agreements from former President George W. Bush when he took office in early 2009.

Each pact has faced opposition from union groups and other Democratic Party constituents.

Last year, the Obama administration renegotiated auto provisions of the South Korea agreement to win the support of Ford Motor Co. and the United Auto Workers union, who complained the original agreement too heavily favored South Korean automakers.

In a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Obama cited the South Korea pact and said he would seek a similar track on the Panama and Colombia deals.

Many Democrats also remain concerned about anti-union killings in Colombia and the failure of the government to bring those responsible for the murders to justice.

Democrats also have pushed for changes in Panama's labor laws and tax secrecy laws, and the two countries have made some progress in talks on those fronts.

Obama said in his State of the Union speech he wanted Congress to approve the revised deal "as soon as possible," but gave no indication when he would submit the two other trade pacts with Colombia and Panama to Congress.

McConnell and Hatch said approval of the two pacts would boost U.S. exports to Latin America, but said there were also compelling "strategic arguments" to pass the deals.

"Further delay in implementing these agreements risks sending the signal to other countries in Latin America that the United States is not interested in closer economic engagement in the region and is unable to follow through on our commitments to our allies," they said.

The Republican senators urged Obama to send all three agreements to Congress "as soon as possible."

"Finally, given what we believe is broad, bipartisan support in Congress for these agreements, we would like to make clear that we see no need for further negotiations with Colombia and Panama," they said.

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Top Senate Republicans Monday urged President Barack Obama to push for approval of free trade deals with Colombia and Panama in addition to a pact with South Korea he already plans to send to Congress. We are disappointed ... not to see the same level of commitment from...
Republican Senators Press Obama on Bush Trade Deals
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2011-51-07
Monday, 07 Feb 2011 11:51 AM
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