Obama backs FTA during Q&A with GOP
“Korea is a great ally of ours .?.?. There is no country that is more committed to friendship on a whole range of fronts than South Korea,” Obama told the Republicans. “What is also true is that the European Union is about to sign a trade agreement with South Korea. Which means right at the moment when they start opening up their markets, the Europeans might get in there before we do.”
Obama made his comments while answering a question regarding job creation within the U.S. and the future of trade deals with countries such as Korea.
During his State of the Union address, Obama pledged to increase trade relations with countries including South Korea, Colombia and Panama in order to boost job creation and further fuel economic recovery in the U.S. The three countries have agreed to FTA agreements with the U.S. but are waiting for ratification from legislatures.
“If America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores .?.?.We will strengthen our trade relations in Asia and with key partners like South Korea, Panama and Colombia,” Obama said, adding that he will be firm on “enforcing those agreements [FTAs] so our trading partners play by the rules.”
The Korea-U.S. FTA deal has been long pending at the legislatures of both countries since it was signed in June 2007, after numerous rounds of talks. The two contingent issues for the U.S. government have been trade terms regarding automobiles and beef, on which they are pushing for renegotiations.
In fact, the Obama administration has repeatedly stated that the automobile trade terms in the FTA agreement with Korea is unfair and lopsided.
Obama last year said that “the U.S. can only get 4,000 to 5,000 [cars] into South Korea” while Korean auto companies are sending “hundreds of thousands of cars” in the U.S. Along with this, the U.S. auto industry and its respective labor unions have strongly protested the deal.
“There is a bad history in the automobile market in Korea with practices that have excluded foreign automakers,” Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis said last week during a forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Meanwhile in recent months, the Obama administration has been expressing the need to work toward finalizing the deal, which could help revive the U.S. economy. Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said in front of a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee earlier this month that “we [the U.S.] will continue to work with the Congress, stakeholders, and the Republic of Korea to work through the outstanding issues of concern so we can move forward on our bilateral free trade agreement.”
Obama’s determination on improving trade relations seemed firm during his State of the Union address. “We will double our exports over the next five years, an increase that will support two million jobs in America,” he said.
By Choi Sang-yeon, Cho Jae-eun [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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