The White House, to the dismay of members of both parties in Congress, has been foot-dragging on submission of the South Korea, Colombia and Panama free-trade deals. Yesterday, as the Daily Caller reported, the president came up with a new excuse:
White House officials announced . . . .they won’t send three pending trade pacts to Congress until they get a new package of aid-funding approved by Capitol Hill.
This move will further frustrate the business groups that have been pushing for the treaties and will raise hackles among budget-cutting House Republicans. But it will also bolster President Barack Obama’s ties to labor unions, and to Senate Democrats who must approve the treaties amid opposition from labor unions.
This issue was never previously raised, and seems designed to incur opposition. (“The insistence that House Republicans approve funding for the multi-billion dollar project is likely to slow approval of the free-trade deals. GOP and small-government groups oppose the program as wasteful. For example, studies show that the spending ‘is ineffective in raising the wages of participants,’ according to the Heritage Foundation. In fiscal 2010, 280,873 workers received aid, at the cost of roughly $2.5 billion, said a Heritage report.”)
House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) was not pleased, issuing this statement:
The Obama Administration has found every possible excuse to delay implementation of these trade deals despite agreement that they would help boost economic growth and make America more competitive. . . . At a time when our economy could use all the help it can get, these agreements would expand U.S. exports and grow jobs and investments here in America. Inaction only results in the U.S. losing market share and exports to competitors. It is irresponsible for the White House to be throwing up yet another barrier to stall movement. If the president believes trade is an important part of getting our country’s economy moving again, his administration should reassure our trade partners and the American people that our nation will uphold its commitment to these agreements and not continue to find reason to delay or dismantle them.”
There really is no credible excuse for the stalling. The only explanation is that Obama and some members of Congress don’t want to rile big labor. But if that is the case, the president shouldn’t have promised in his State of the Union address that he’d move these deals.
This, too, is a missed opportunity for job creation and some productive foreign policy moves. Colombia has been a democratic ally, resisting Hugo Chavez at every turn. This is how we repay the presently pro-American country?
Every day and week we delay, other countries, unhobbled by protectionist leaders, stake out more and more of the market in these countries. It will hard to get those opportunities, and the jobs here in the United States that go with them, back again.