And yet another letter comes to the White House from business leaders….This one, titled “Doubling U.S. Exports in the Next Five Years” is from the Emergency Committee for American Trade.
Signatories include Harold McGraw III of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., Jim Owens of Caterpillar, Jeffrey Immelt of GE, Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, and execs from Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, Texas Instruments, IBM, Intel, and Citibank.
The letter pushes for quick action regarding the three trade agreements negotiated by President Bush: the Korean, Colombian and Panamanian free trade agreements, which many labor unions oppose. (Ford Motor Company also opposes the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement.) President Obama has yet to send any of the three to Congress for ratification; many Democrats oppose the agreements and it’s unclear that they could pass.
Specifically, the business leaders request that the president announce he will seek congressional approval of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement after the November G-20 summit. The agreement was signed in 2007.
President Obama could meet that request. After meeting with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak at the G-20 in Toronto, Canada, last month, President Obama said the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement is “the right thing to do for our country, it is the right thing to do for Korea. It will strengthen our commercial ties and it will create enormous potential economic benefits to create jobs.” The president said he hoped remaining issues in negotiation were resolved by the time of his visit Seoul in November for the G-20.
Wrote the business leaders: “On the first day that this agreement enters into force, over 90 percent of U.S. manufactured goods and 50 percent of U.S. agricultural products will receive duty-free access. Remaining tariffs will be largely eliminated within 10 years….Decisive and quick progress on the Korea agreement is especially vital given that the European Union and Korea have signed their own trade pact which, once implemented, will put U.S. companies and their workers at an even greater disadvantage in the Korean market until the Korea-U.S. agreement is implemented.”
The business leaders also urged “decisive and quick action with respect to both the Colombia and Panama trade agreements.”
When the president announced his new export initiative, he mentioned wanting “to deepen and broaden our relations with Panama and Colombia,” but he said nothing about the agreements, and the White House provided no timeline for them being sent to Congress.