The Obama Administration intends to meet Congressional demands to move all three pending NAFTA-style “free trade” agreements with Colombia, Korea, and Panama. David Dayen previewed this news yesterday, explaining that at a minimum, a quarter million American jobs are at risk.
Since the announcement of the Korea deal in December to Panama’s late last month, the White House has accelerated the job-killing trade deals, culminating with Congress beginning technical work on the deals starting yesterday. In those six months, the Obama Administration did a 180 with how it wants to move the deals. US Trade Representative Ron Kirk cautioned against tying the deals together in January, pushing back against Boehner’s insistence that the deals move together by calling such a move a “huge mistake”:
“I know John Boehner has spoken to the president about timing … we are seeking a hard deadline, a tight sequence for all three,” Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said.
Brady said that “whether it’s all at once or a defined sequence and timetable, we just have to get them all done.”
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk made clear in a public appearance Thursday that the administration continues to resist tying the Korea free-trade agreement to the other two deals.
“We think as attractive as it might sound to some, it would be a huge mistake to force all of the trade agenda into one lump vote with Korea,” Kirk said. He added that the administration does not want to “short-circuit” the process of fixing the problems with the other two.
Fast forward to today. The Administration has not only agreed to meet Boehner’s arbitrary July 1 deadline, but is not discussing a “broader trade package” that will come to Congress this summer. While it looks likely there won’t be one vote on all 3 trade deals, you can smell Obama’s brand of compromise in the air.
“We are confident now that a free-trade agreement would be good for our country, would create jobs here in the United States, open up new markets with potential for billions of dollars of cross-border trades,” Obama told reporters in the Oval Office. “We think it would be also very good for Panama and allow additional economic exchanges between our two countries.”
“So my expectation is, is that as part of a broader trade package that we’re going to be presenting to Congress, that we’re going to be able to get this done,” he added, thanking Martinelli for “his leadership on this issue.”
The White House has made clear that Korea is its biggest priority, and has been pushing for its passage more than Colombia and Panama. Republicans and other corporate free trade Democrats have insisted that if Korea passes, Colombia and Panama must come right behind, if not with it.
So of course, Republicans see opportunity to get all 3 through so that Obama gets his Korea deal. Rep. Brady, a key trade leader in the House, has insisted from the beginning that they move together. And the US Chamber of Commerce is only happy to join that call for a “grand bargain.”
An official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said there could be a “grand bargain” on trade.
“In the weeks ahead, the United States has a chance to move forward in a bipartisan fashion to secure approval of the pending trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama,” John Murphy, vice president for international policy at the Chamber, said in a blog post.
The Chamber is even touring the country with the South Korean ambassador to support the trade deals, and promises an ad campaign to come.
The Chamber has also been traveling the country with the South Korean ambassador promoting the deals. Since the beginning of the year, the Chamber has organized grass-roots activities in at least 10 states, including New Mexico, Colorado, Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and South Carolina, said Chamber trade lobbyist Scott Eckart.
“We are putting significant resources into this, and it’s still being determined. We are going to be doing ad campaigns,” said another Chamber trade lobbyist, Christopher Wenk. “We’re not shy about pouring resources into our top priorities.”
Politico wrote that this summer would be an “epic showdown” over trade deals in Congress. Is it just me, or am I missing who’s going to be on the other side of this fight? While some labor unions have come out in opposition to all 3 trade deals, it’s hard to imagine any sort of “showdown” happening with the Administration, members of Congress in both parties, and corporate groups all pushing for rapid approval of these deals.