Obama Signs Trade Agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama
President Barack Obama signed three free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama on Friday. The deals are the largest free trade measure passed since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993, and bring the number of countries that have free trade agreements with America to 20.
The deals, which have been under negotiation since the last Bush presidency, were passed by both houses of Congress on Wednesday, Oct. 12. and represent the first free trade agreements to pass since 2007. Votes were mostly a long party lines in both the House and Senate, with overwhelming support from Republicans and divided support from Democrats.
Leaders of both parties as well as the president applauded the agreements, stating that they would reduce prices for American consumers, manufacturers and importers, and create new avenues of revenue for exporters. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told The Associated Press that the administration was on track of reaching Obama's goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015.
Proponents of the bill have further claimed that it could create "tens of thousands" of jobs. Labor unions, meanwhile, strongly opposed the bill, citing potential job losses due to foreign competition. To address labor concerns, Congress passed and the president renewed the Trade Adjustmest Assistance (TAA) legislation, which assists American workers hurt by foreign trade.
There is still debate on the potential ramifications of the agreements. For example, some analysts fear that South Korea's large textile industry could flood the American market with cheaper or inferior products; others claim the new exporting opportunities will benefit American businesses, by reducing costs and increasing foreign purchases. What effect the new trade agreements will have on the promotional apparel or hard goods industries remains to be seen.
Related story: U.S. Free Trade Deals Passed, Textile Prices May Be Affected