Thursday, June 3, 2010

Senators Try to Use Logic to Advance Pending US FTAs, but Logic Has Nothing to Do with It

On June 1st, seventeen Republican Senators sent a letter to President Obama asking his administration to provide a "a well-defined and finite list of those outstanding issues they need to accomplish” in order for the White House to finally submit implementing legislation on pending FTAs with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.  The text of the letter is available here, but here are a few choice parts:
Despite your comments on April 16th, reiterating your support for the completion of the Korean, Colombian and Panamanian Free Trade Agreements (“FTA”), there has been little substantial progress in the enactment of these critical accords. In fact, Luis Plata, Colombia’s Trade Minister, said his nation still had not received a “concrete list” of actions which Colombia must take before your Administration supports Congressional action on these agreements. Therefore, we respectfully ask your Administration provide, on an expedited basis, to Korea, Colombia and Panama, a well-defined and finite list of those outstanding issues they need to accomplish. Given Congress’ role in approving these agreements, we also request you propose a specific timeline for the enactment of these FTAs.

The immediate consideration of these FTAs has never been so important. The European Union has negotiated trade agreements with a number of Central American countries, including Panama. This is in addition to the FTA the Europeans have reached with Korea. The impact of our inaction is already being felt....

Ratification by the Congress of the Korean, Colombian and Panamanian FTAs would be the catalyst for significant economic growth and job creation in the United States. Based on figures by the United States International Trade Commission (“USITC”), the Korean FTA will facilitate the growth of our economy by up to $11.9 billion. US exports of goods to Korea would grow by $9.7 to $10.9 billion, primarily in the areas of agricultural products, machinery, electronics, and transportation equipment.

Implementing the Colombia FTA will increase our nation’s gross domestic product by $2.5 billion. The benefits of the Panamanian FTA are similar....

The choice is clear. In a time of diminished prosperity, it is in the United States’ best interest to stimulate our economy by opening new foreign markets to our nation’s products and services, creating countless jobs....
The letter's signatories are Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Kit Bond (R-Missouri), Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), Robert Bennett (R-Utah), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), Scott Brown (R-Mass.), James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), Jim Bunning (R-Kentucky), Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), George LeMieux (R-Florida), Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and John Ensign (R-Nevada).  And you gotta give them credit: the FTAs' economic and foreign policy benefits are pretty undeniable, as is the concern that American companies will lose foreign market share to their European, Canadian and other competitors as those countries sign their own FTAs.

But all this talk about a "well-defined and finite list" of issues is just silly.  I mean, if the administration and congressional Democrats ever did that, then it'd be impossible for them to once again move the goalposts when Colombia, Panama and Korea actually, you know, completed each menial task assigned to them.  For example, congressional Democrats used to swear up and down that the utterly harmless US-Panama FTA would be submitted and approved by Congress once Panamanian President Pedro Miguel Gonzales Pinzon - who is wanted in the United States for the alleged 1992 murder of US serviceman in Panama - either stepped down or completed his one-year term.  Well, his term was up in 2008, and - surprise!! - "other concerns surfaced," most notably some ambiguous nonsense about Panama being a nefarious tax haven (or something).  The story has been pathetically similar for Colombia and Korea - each time they bend over (umm, backwards) for the United States on some silly issue, another one pops up to take its place and further delay consideration of obviously beneficial agreements that were signed years ago and should have been ratified shortly thereafter.

So spare me your airtight "finite list" logic, Senators. Such sanity might work in the real world, but you're barking up the wrong tree here.

Well, at least until November.


No comments: