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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Obama Promises Push on Trade Pacts - NYTimes.com

Obama Promises Push on Trade Pacts - NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON — President Obama, who vowed in his State of the Union address to double American exports over the next five years, said on Wednesday that he would renew his efforts to renegotiate long-stalled free trade agreements with Panama and Colombia and persuade Congress to adopt them.

The two trade pacts, and a third one with South Korea, were negotiated by the administration of former President George W. Bush, but all three have languished in Congress because of deep opposition from Democrats. Mr. Obama said in Toronto last month that he intended to make a new push for the South Korean agreement, and on Wednesday he pledged to press ahead with the two Latin American pacts as well.

“For a long time, we were trapped in a false political debate in this country, where business was on one side and labor was on the other,” Mr. Obama said in the East Room of the White House, at an event intended to highlight his administration’s efforts to promote exports. “What we now have an opportunity to do is to refocus our attention where we’re all in it together.”

Trade is a particularly difficult issue for many Democrats, especially in an election year when jobs are already scarce, because of a widespread view that American workers suffer disproportionately when the United States lowers trade barriers.

On the South Korea pact, for instance, Democrats have expressed concerns about that country’s restrictions on automobile and beef imports from the United States — concerns that Mr. Obama has vowed to address before sending the agreement to Congress for passage. More...

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