August 23,2011

Press Contact:

Julia Lawless, Antonia Ferrier, 202.224.4515

What is President Obama Waiting For?

Years After First Negotiated, the Only Thing Standing in the Way of Making These Critical Trade Agreements a Reality is the President

On Saturday, President Obama said, “And let’s pass trade deals to level the playing field for our businesses…These are commonsense ideas – ideas that have been supported by both Democrats and Republicans. The only thing holding them back is politics. The only thing preventing us from passing these bills is the refusal by some in Congress to put country ahead of party. That’s the problem right now. That’s what’s holding this country back. That’s what we have to change.”

But the only thing standing in the way of enacting these three trade agreements is the President himself.  American exporters continue to face a competitive disadvantage because the Obama Administration has yet to submit to Congress the three outstanding trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea for a vote. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, American workers are losing $8 million each day in wages and benefits while American businesses and farmers have already lost tens of billions in export opportunities. 

Negotiations with the government of Colombia concluded over five and a half years ago; with South Korea and Panama over four years ago.  If these agreements are as critical to an economic recovery as the President says, then the question is what is the President waiting for? 

The following timeline chronicles the major milestones in America’s trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea:

Nov. 22, 2006:             U.S. and Colombia sign the FTA

June 30, 2007:             U.S. and South Korea sign the FTA

June 28, 2007:             U.S. and Panama sign the FTA

July 11, 2007:              The U.S.-Panama FTA is approved by the Panama legislature

June 14, 2007:             U.S.- Colombia FTA is approved by Colombia legislature

May 18, 2009:              USTR Ambassador Ron Kirk says “we’re working to finalize the Panama    trade agreement, working to resolve outstanding issues on the Colombia and Korea agreement. Our success in resolving outstanding issues will determine the pace at which we move forward with our FTAs”

Jan. 27, 2010:               President Obama promises to double American exports over the next five years during his State of the Union Address

March 3, 2010:            USTR Ambassador Ron Kirk testifies before the Senate Finance Committee; says approval of pending trade agreements is top priority for Administration

Jan. 25, 2011:               President Obama commits to pursuing agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea during his State of the Union Address

Feb. 09, 2011:              USTR Ambassador Ron Kirk testifies before the House Ways and Means Committee; says Administration will “intensify engagement” with Colombia, Panama to resolve outstanding issues; vows to submit the U.S.-Korea FTA to Congress “in the next few weeks”

April 06, 2011:              Obama Administration announces Colombia Action Plan

April 13, 2011:              Panama approves the U.S.-Panama Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA), taking the final step imposed on it by the Obama Administration before initiating congressional consideration of U.S.-Panama trade accord

May 11, 2011:              Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing examining the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement

May 25, 2011:              Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing examining the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement

May 26, 2011:              Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing examining the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement

June 13, 2011:             Colombia successfully implements major elements of the Action Plan on Labor Rights, fulfilling criteria required by the Obama Administration to advance trade pact

June 28, 2011:              Obama Administration signals intent to include Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) in the South Korean FTA implementing bill – a breach of long-standing rules, procedures, and precedents governing the delegation of trade negotiating authority

July 01, 2011:               EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement Enters into Force; American Exporters lose out on market share

July 7, 2011:                 U.S. Senate Finance Committee & House Ways & Means Committee hold mock-mark ups on draft implementing bills for the Colombia, Panama, and South Korea trade agreements; Ways and Means Chairman Camp vows to move stand alone TAA bill with FTAs

July 22, 2011:               A group of Senate Republicans announce they will support a TAA bill – separate from the pending FTAs – providing a guarantee a freestanding TAA bill would pass the Senate, clearing the way for easy passage of all three pending  FTAs

Aug. 03, 2011:              Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announce bipartisan plan to advance pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea in the Senate

Aug. 11, 2011:              President Obama gives speech in Michigan calling for final movement on trade agreements. "Those trade bills are teed up," he said. "They're ready to go. Let's get it done." (The Hill, August 14, 2011)

Aug. 15, 2011:              Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Enters into Force; American Exporters, again, lose out on market share