Obama pressed on trade pacts

Republicans say 3 deals benefit U.S.

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“My theory is that in trying to appease its union allies, the administration’s willing to let these two agreements wither on the vine,” Mr. Hatch said.

Mr. Portman, a former U.S. trade representative during the Bush administration, said as the pending trade deals collect dust, the European Union is moving forward with a trade deal with South Korea, while Canada has inked a trade pact with Colombia.

“As those agreements go into effect, again, market share will be taken from U.S. workers, U.S. farmers and U.S. service providers,” he said.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, Michigan Republican, in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk this month also urged the administration to advance all three accords.

The Republican complaints came after Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus last week pushed the administration to complete the deals, saying “the time is here - the time is now.”

“We’re losing market share hand over fist” without the Colombia trade deal, said the Montana Democrat during a Senate hearing last week with Mr. Kirk.

Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, who briefly stopped by the hearing on his way to another, lent his support to Mr. Baucus’ plea to quickly ratify the deals.

“I just wanted the record to reflect I’d like to associate myself with your remarks,” Mr. Kerry said. “I think they’re very important and I appreciate them.”

Mr. Kirk told the panel the “wiser course of action” for Congress was to move first on South Korea because that deal was ready and the United States could not afford to put off the economic benefits of the proposed pact. It’s estimated that the agreement will increase U.S. exports by $10 billion and produce 70,000 American jobs.

Mr. Kirk said that, while Panama and Colombia are important allies and “good neighbors,” the Korean deal is “more economically compelling than the last nine free trade agreements the United States has done combined.”

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