Obama urges passage of free trade deals
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On the heels of U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday in which he focused squarely on resuscitating the economy, pressure is mounting in the nation's capital to move forward with free trade agreements (FTAs) whose passage would promote exports and create jobs.
In his address, Obama urged Congress to act on pending trade pacts with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the administration plans to submit the U.S.-Colombia FTA to Congress this year. Obama did not initially set a timetable in Tuesday's speech.
"Secretary Clinton's remarks represent the clearest signal the administration has sent with respect to its intentions to move the Colombia agreement forward in a specific time frame," said National Foreign Trade Council president Bill Reinsch in a statement.
Negotiated in 2006, the U.S.-Colombia FTA has stalled due to opposition by labor leaders in the North and concerns about the state of human and labor rights in the South American nation.
Among the three deals, the U.S.-South Korea FTA seems to be first in line for passage. Seoul's trade ministry announced Wednesday that the text of the agreement had been finalized and would be signed in mid-February, according to media reports.
Sources: Inter Press Service
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