Trade tensions “between the White House and Republicans burst into the public on Wednesday as Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) threatened to hold up an agreement with South Korea,” The Hill reports.
Hatch said President Obama’s highly touted deal with South Korea, which has won support from both parties, the business community and labor groups, will not win consideration from Republicans unless it is paired with more controversial deals with Colombia and Panama.
Republicans fear “the Colombia and Panama agreements will never see the light of day if Congress approves the South Korean deal, which would give the president a victory to tout to business in his 2012 reelection bid.”
“I don’t believe the president will ever act on the Colombia and Panama agreements unless these agreements move with Korea,” Hatch, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, told Obama’s trade representative during a Wednesday hearing.
U.S. Trade Representative “Ron Kirk told Hatch and other senators at the hearing that the administration was committed to moving all three agreements.”
In a press release issued yesterday, Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN) “vowed to help block the Obama Administration’s South Korea free-trade agreement, unless the Colombia and Panama trade agreements signed by former President George W. Bush are also submitted to Congress for approval.”
“Hopes for economic growth in the United States and Indiana depend greatly on executing a global strategy to open markets to our exports. Holding back the Panama and Colombia free trade agreements because of the complaints of labor unions would underscore to our competitors that the Obama trade agenda is in disarray. It would signal that the United States isn’t going to compete aggressively for markets.”
Lugar is Ranking Member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.