President Again Urges Action on Free Trade Agreements

By February 25, 2010Trade

President Obama on Wednesday spoke to the Business Roundtable, the trade association that represents the largest corporations in the United States (and with which the NAM shares many members). In his remarks, the President expressed support for the pending free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea.

Now, I know that trade policy has been one of those longstanding divides between business and labor, between Democrats and Republicans. To those who would reflexively support every and any trade deal, I would say that our competitors have to play fair and our agreements have to be enforced. We can’t simply cede more jobs or markets to unfair trade practices. At the same time, to those who would reflexively oppose every trade agreement, they need to know that if America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores. In other countries, whether China or Germany or Brazil, they’ve been able to align the interests of business, workers, and government around trade agreements that open up new markets for them and create new jobs for them. We must do the same. And I’m committed to making that happen.

That’s why we launched the Trans-Pacific Partnership to strengthen our trade relations with Asia, the fastest-growing market in the world. That’s why we will work to resolve outstanding issues so that we can move forward on trade agreements with key partners like South Korea and Panama and Colombia. And that’s why we will try to conclude a Doha trade agreement –- not just any agreement, but one that creates real access to key global markets.

Reuters reported on the speech and reaction, “Obama trade talk cheers business groups,” citing one of the NAM’s specialists in the area:

Doug Goudie, director of international trade policy with the National Association of Manufacturers, said he took seriously the Obama administration’s new focus on trade and much appreciated the goal of doubling exports.

“Moving forward on those three FTAS as soon as possible is going to be the best way to jumpstart the rest of their plan,” such as increasing the number of small- and medium-sized U.S. companies that export, he said.

The Business Roundtable issued a statement summarizing the meeting, with President John Castellani also highlighting trade issues:

We agreed with the President that the United States cannot sit on the sidelines while our competitors negotiate trade agreements that benefit their companies and workers over ours; we discussed the need for Congress to pass the pending free trade agreements as a first step toward the enhanced international trade and investment that is essential to growing the U.S. economy and creating more and better-paying jobs.

The next step for the President is to stop talking about “moving forward” on the FTAs and instead say, “Congress should now enact the pending Free Trade Agreements.”

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