July 14,2010

Grassley Urges Implementation of Pending Trade Agreements

Remarks of Senator Chuck Grassley
ECAT Press Conference Urging Approval of Pending Trade Agreements With Colombia, Panama and South Korea

I was glad to see President Obama finally commit his Administration to working out the issues he has identified as the impediment to finally implementing our pending trade agreement with South Korea.  The President has now put his Administration on a firm timeline to complete his discussions with the South Koreans.  If his timeline holds true, then we should see an announcement at the next meeting of the G-20 nations in Seoul this November.  A successful conclusion to those discussions would be followed by the Administration submitting implementing legislation for our bilateral trade agreement to Congress early next year.

I agree with the President that prompt implementation of our trade agreement with South Korea is a national priority.  It’s in our national security interest as well as our national economic interest to strengthen our bilateral relations with South Korea through this trade agreement.  And it’s a shame that we’ve waited this long to act—South Korea is too important an ally for that.

At the same time, there is no reason why implementation of our stalled trade agreements with Colombia and Panama cannot be put on the same timeline.  All it would take is a commitment by the President.  Yet, President Obama has just offered “as soon as possible” when it comes to Colombia and Panama.  Based on what we’ve seen thus far from this Administration, I’m afraid that “as soon as possible” may not be seen as “possible” for several more years to come.

That’s not good enough.  It’s been three years already, and Colombia and Panama are also important allies—too important for our respective trade agreements to have been sidelined by domestic politics for so long.  We need to see a similar demonstration of leadership from President Obama to signal the political will to move each of our trade agreements with Colombia and with Panama through Congress, difficult though that may be.  I stand ready to work with the President to do just that, and I’d like to see it happen this year.

This is a jobs issue as much as it is a security issue.  Our farmers, manufacturers, and service providers are counting on us to level the playing field.  They stand to lose ground to international competitors if we fail to implement our trade agreements with Colombia and Panama promptly.  Once lost, market share is hard to win back—and with it go the jobs that would have been sustained by those lost export opportunities.

So I implore President Obama to commit to resolving this year the issues his Administration has identified with respect to our respective trade agreements with Colombia and Panama, so that each agreement can each be submitted to Congress for approval early next year.