Entries in Free Trade (6)


US May Explore Free Trade Deal With Georgia

Mike Theiler-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Marking the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and the Republic of Georgia, President Obama on Monday announced the U.S. is willing to explore the “possibility” of a free trade agreement with Georgia.

Following an Oval Office meeting with President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, President Obama said the two leaders agreed to “a high-level dialogue between our two countries about how we can continue to strengthen trade relations between our two countries, including the possibility of a free trade agreement.”

“Obviously, there’s a lot of work to be done and there are going to be a lot of options that are going to be explored,” Obama added. “The key point, though, is we think it’s a win-win for the United States and for Georgia as we continue to find opportunities for businesses to invest in Georgia, for us to be able to sell Georgia our goods and services, and Georgia to be able to sell theirs as well.”

While there is no timetable yet for working on a free-trade deal, Saakashvili said that such an agreement would “attract lots of additional activity to my country” and help “our nation-building process.”

Obama said Georgia should be proud of the progress it’s made in building a sovereign and democratic country and assured Saakashvili that the U.S. will continue to support Georgia’s aspirations to join NATO.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


South Korea 'Tearfully' Ratifies Trade Pact with US After Gas Attack

PARK YOUNG-DAE/AFP/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- South Korea’s parliament ratified a free-trade agreement with the United States on Tuesday amid shouting and brawling by some members opposing the pact.

One opposition lawmaker threw a tear gas canister at the speaker’s podium, forcing hundreds to evacuate before resuming.

The long-delayed and controversial deal passed 151-7, with most opposition members absent.  The ruling Grand National Party (GNP) had called a surprise parliamentary session in order to push it through, taking advantage of its majority status.

Kim Sun-Dong, a member of the minority Democratic Labor Party who set off the canister, repeatedly shouted “No to FTA (Free Trade Agreement)!” and “GNP, aren’t you afraid of history and the people,” as security guards wrestled him out of the floor.  Legislators coughed and wiped tears as they rammed the free-trade deal through.

The deal is expected to boost South Korean exports of automobile-related parts, electronics and textiles, according to economists.  But agriculture, fisheries and chemicals are among the industries facing future disadvantage.

It is the biggest U.S. trade pact since the 1994 North America Free Trade Agreement and was approved by the U.S. Congress last month.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Japan to Join US-Backed Free Trade Talks

Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg via Getty Images(TOKYO) -- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced Friday his intention to join discussions for a U.S.-backed free trade zone, facing revolt from his own party and the powerful farm lobby.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership would eliminate trade barriers between 10 countries, and open up Japan’s $48 billion farm market -- a move opponents say threatens the livelihood of farmers, but supporters argue is vital to keeping the world’s third-largest economy competitive.

The pact is seen as the first step in establishing a free trade zone that encompasses all of Asia and the Pacific.

Joining the TPP would give Japanese exporters greater access to the U.S. market and other countries.  But the pact has faced fierce opposition from the heavily protected agriculture sector, which accounts for just 1.5 percent of economic output, but has a large influence in parliament.  Farmers say they simply can’t compete with larger competitors in the U.S. and Australia.

Just 16 percent of Japan’s trade is covered by free trade agreements, compared with 36 percent for rival South Korea.  The Cabinet Office has said participation in the TPP would boost gross domestic product by $34.7 billion.

TPP proponents argue markets must be opened to lift a sagging economy, battered by a strong currency and an aging population.  The country is also struggling to recover from the March 11 tsunami and the nuclear disaster that followed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Free Trade Agreement Trio, if Colombia Meets Benchmarks

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A trio of long-delayed trade agreements hinge on whether Colombia shows progress in implementing labor-rights benchmarks. Colombia is due to report to the Obama administration Friday.

The Obama Administration has been pushing to open trade with Colombia, Panama and South Korea since appointing Ron Kirk as the principal trade advisor last June in the U.S. Trade Representatives. The Colombia trade agreement would eliminate tariffs and other barriers to U.S. exports, which totaled $12 billion last year. It will also provide U.S. companies access to Colombia's $134 billion services market, which would open job opportunities for U.S. service providers.

"Colombia is one of our strongest allies in South America and increased trade between our two nations will bolster the economic partnership. Expanding markets for American goods and services will help create jobs in the U.S. and strengthen our economy," said House Speaker John Boehner. "That's why it's important for the administration to work with Congress to implement all three pending trade agreements -- Colombia, Panama, and South Korea -- in tandem with one another as soon as possible."

Prior to Congressional approval, Colombia's president, Juan Manuel Santos, must assign 95 additional full-time police investigators to support prosecutors in charge of investigating criminal cases involving labor union members and activists. Colombia has also committed to launching a public outreach campaign to promote awareness of illegality of undermining rights to organize and bargain collectively.

"The legislation may pass if Colombia meets the benchmark set in place by labor agreements earlier this month, but Colombia should not be rewarded with the agreement. They have killed 2,800 [people] since 1986, 51 last year, and three teachers this year," said Robert Scott from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute.

The administration and Congressional supporters hope to fast-track the agreements, giving it 90 days to go through Congress. The fast-track requirement allows the President to negotiate agreements with Congress prior to the 90-day clock, but they cannot add amendments or filibusters once it has been submitted to Congress.

Talks with the three countries have been in the works since before 2008, but the difference this week is that Colombia is displaying progress, preparing for the free trade agreement. All three countries are moving forward: a deal with South Korea was announced in December, Panama this week, and today Colombia's progress submission. Obama may be put in a tight spot as the 2012 campaign revs up as many of his supporters are strong advocates for organized labor and human rights. These groups are generally opposed to the trade agreements.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Obama Making a Latin America Trade Connection

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(SANTIAGO, Chile) -- President Obama continues on his dual-path trip to Latin America -- tending to coalition military force in Libya while simultaneously selling the U.S. as an excellent trade partner in the region -- with his eyes on the prize of creating more jobs in the U.S.
In Chile Monday, as he did in Brazil over the weekend, Obama discussed ways to expand the economic relationship the U.S. and Chile share, beyond the current free trade agreement that has been in effect for the last seven years.
“Under our existing trade agreement, trade between the United States and Chile has more than doubled, creating new jobs and opportunities in both our countries,” Obama said after meeting with Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera.  “But I believe and President Pinera believes that there's always more we can do to expand our economic cooperation.”
Obama’s focus in Chile will be on clean energy partnerships, even as Chile has agreed not to build any nuclear power plants in the near future, and on fully implementing the free trade agreement to include protections of intellectual property, as well as eliminating 134 tariffs this year alone. 
But Obama was also wooing the region as a whole, by offering “open skies” agreements to reduce government interference in commercial air travel, promoting a Pacific rim partnership, and announcing an educational exchange program that seeks to send 100,000 U.S. students across Latin America to study -- and make sure an equal number come to the U.S.
“Today, Latin America is democratic.  Virtually all the people of Latin America have gone from living under dictatorships to living in democracies,” Obama said at an event sponsored by the U.N.’s Economic Commission for Latin America. “We are citizens who know that ensuring that democracies deliver for our people must be the work of us all. This is our history.  This is our heritage.  We are all Americans.  Todos somos Americanos.”
Building a strong economic region, Obama said, is a mission that started under Kennedy as an ambitious plan to use massive amounts of U.S. government money to combat illiteracy, improve the productivity and use of land, wipe out disease and provide educational opportunities, all in an effort to bring stability and trade to the region.  While much of that mission has remained the same, the method needed now, Obama says, is growing commercial “equal” partnerships, not maintaining a “senior partner” versus “junior partner” government relationships.
“When Latin America is more prosperous, the United States is more prosperous,” he said.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Reaches Korea Free Trade Agreement

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The United States and South Korea have agreed to a free-trade deal.  Last month when Mr. Obama visited Seoul, South Korea he was criticized for failing to achieve an agreement.

Friday the White House touted that in the weeks since failing to get an agreement what emerged was a “substantially better package than was on the table in Korea,” last month and one that is “significantly improved over the 2007 deal,” a senior administration official said this afternoon in advance of the agreement, adding that it is better for American workers and businesses.

“We think what we’ve been able to achieve now in this Korea Free Trade agreement is one that not only helps us create opportunities for business but for our workers as well,” a senior administration official said, “we have answered many of the concerns frankly from the automotive sector that will allow them to have the opportunity to go and compete just as freely in Korean car markets as they have had access to our car markets over the last several years.”

To note on the beef issue, one of the major sticking points, the administration officials admitted that while the agreement will eliminate the 40 percent tariff, it is still -- in their words “a pending issue.”

The agreement would eliminate tariffs on over 95 percent of industrial and consumer goods within five years.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio