At the beginning of the week, President Obama submitted a trio of unilateral trade deals with Columbia, Panama, and South Korea to Congress for ratification.
Congressional leaders have 60 days to vote on the trade deals with a simple up-or-down motion with no amendments. Lawmakers made the first step this week by passing the trade deals out of the House Ways and Means Committee.
The swift trade momentum comes after years of delay. All three agreements were signed during the George W. Bush Presidency and sat idle during the Obama Administration pending the new president’s goal of renegotiating key provisions including: labor rights protections and access for U.S. automakers in South Korea.
The Korean deal in particular has been a top priority for White House officials. When President Obama met with South Korean leaders in late 2010, he trumpeted the deal’s potential.
President Obama: “We discussed the need to keep moving forward towards a U.S./Korea free trade agreement, which would create jobs and prosperity in both our countries. We believe that such an agreement, if done right, can be a win-win for our people. We have asked our teams to work tirelessly in the coming days and weeks to get this completed, and we are confident that we will do so.”
Nearly one year later, the South Korea trade deal appears to be closing in on final ratification. The agreement could be an economic boon in domestic circles. The White House says the South Korea deal alone will increase annual U.S. exports by $10 billion and could generate tens of thousands of new American jobs.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said this week: “American agriculture will benefit to the tune of $2.3 billion dollars in additional exports that will support nearly 20-thousand jobs here at home.”
Government projections predict the U.S.-South Korea agreement would boost U.S. beef exports to more than $1 billion per year – up from $518 million in 2010. Pork exports would more than double from 2010 figures to $400 million by 2016.
Pending any new congressional resistance, the three trade deals could reach a full vote in both the U.S. House and Senate, potentially within a week.