JEREMY HOBSON: President Obama heads to El Salvador today as he continues his trip to Latin America. He has spent much of the trip focused on Libya and Japan. But that hasn’t made the issue of trade with Central and South America go away. Colombia and Panama are still waiting on free-trade agreements with the U.S.
Marketplace’s David Gura is live for us in Washington this morning with the trade story this morning. Hi David.
DAVID GURA: Good morning Jeremy.
HOBSON: President Obama has promised to boost exports and trade. Why is it taking so much time to pass some of these deals?
GURA: Well, the president can agree to trade deals, but Congress still needs to approve them. The agreement with Colombia was signed in 2006 and deals with Panama and Korea were inked only a few months later.
I talked to Jeffery Schott, a fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. He said this is “unfinished business that should’ve been taken care of a long time ago.” There has been some movement on all three of these. The Korea deal picked up some momentum last Fall, around the G20 Summit in Seoul. Here’s Jeffrey Schott.
Jeffrey Schott: The Colombia deal does not have the same level of support in the Democratic Party, primarily because of opposition from major labor unions.
So their beef isn’t with specific parts of these agreements which would make it easier to sell goods to these countries. Many Democrats are worried about labor issues and human rights, Jeremy in Colombia, and in Panama, too, to some extent.
HOBSON: And you say these deals were inked, but they haven’t been approved by Congress. Will these free trade deals happen?
GURA: Well, Republicans want to get these deals fast tracked. They’d like to see them packaged together. That may not happen, but Congress could deal with them in quick succession. The G.O.P.’s hoping there will be up-or-down votes soon.
HOBSON: Marketplace’s David Gura in Washington, thanks.
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