ABC News’ Tahman Bradley reports:
Calling it a “landmark” deal, President Obama said today he’s “very pleased” with the free-trade agreement the United States and South Korea have worked out.
“This deal is a win for American workers, for farmers and ranchers,” the president announced this afternoon in a statement read from the White House.
Obama boasted that the deal will contribute significantly to his goal of doubling U.S. exports over the next 5 years by opening up the Korean market to American aerospace products, electronics, and cars and trucks.
“In short, the tariff reductions in this agreement alone are expected to boost annual exports of American goods by up to 11 billion. All told, this agreement, including the opening of the Korean service market, will support at least 70,000 American jobs,” Obama said.
Describing the deal as a win for the U.S. alliance with South Korea, the president noted that estimates show the agreement will increase American output by more than the last nine free trade agreements combined.
The deal now must be ratified by Congress and approved by lawmakers in South Korea. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports passage of the agreement, and its president said in a statement Friday that the lobby organization will do everything in its power to round up the votes needed.
News of the trade agreement was announced late Friday, the same day that yet another disappointing jobs report came out. Today, the president connected the trade agreement with job growth, saying the United States wants to boost exports to create jobs in America.
“Yesterday’s jobs report showed that despite 11 consecutive months of private sector job growth, despite creating more than 1 million private sector jobs this year, it’s not enough,” Obama said.
He admitted more needs to be done to jumpstart the economy.
“We have to do more to accelerate the economic recovery and create jobs for the millions of Americans who are still looking for work,” he said.
On taxes, President Obama expressed regret that the Senate voted today against renewing the Bush tax cuts for the middle class.
“I am very disappointed that the Senate did not pass legislation that had already passed the House of Representatives to make middle class tax cuts permanent. I continue to believe it makes no sense to hold tax cuts for the middle class hostage to permanent tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans,” Obama said.
Many Republicans voted against measures proposed by Democrats to extend the middle class cuts because they want the Bush tax cuts made permanent for all income earners. The president and many Democrats have said the country cannot afford to pay for tax cuts for Americans earning more than $250,000 a year.
Obama announced he’s spoken to Democrats in Congress about the vote and looks forward to speaking with Republicans, too. Coming to an agreement in the lame-duck Congress will require compromise, but all parties need to redouble efforts to get taxes done before the end of the year, the president said.
Obama once again expressed disappointment that long-term unemployment insurance expired for millions of Americans right in the middle of the holiday season.
“That’s not how we should do business here in America,” he said.
“I believe it is simply wrong to even consider giving permanent tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans while denying relief to so many Americans who desperate need it and who lost their jobs through no fault of their own,” he said.
– Tahman Bradley