POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

President Obama Delivers on Jobs (as Long as the Job is Not in America)

by David Trumbull - July 9, 2010

On June 26, 2010, President Barack Obama announced his intention to force through congress the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) and directed U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to initiate new discussions with his Korean counterpart, Minister of Trade Kim Jong-hoon, to resolve outstanding issues with the objective of completing that process by President Obama’s visit to South Korea for the next G-20 meeting in November. After the meeting and with those issues successfully resolved, the President would then submit the KORUS FTA to Congress in the following months.

As it so many things, timing is everything. President Obama cannot get the agreement through congress before November, as it would be all but impossible to find a majority of representatives who would vote yes on an unpopular trade bill before the midterm election. And this is, without a doubt, a bad bill. One of President Obama’s fellow Democrat, Maine Representative Mike Michaud said of KORUS FTA:

“This is another flawed NAFTA-style trade agreement negotiated by the Bush Administration for the benefit of big corporations and at the expense of the American worker.”

Representative Michaud did say that, “President Obama’s commitment to fixing the agreement is laudable if it involves reopening the agreement and fixing not only the market-access issues for American beef and car exports, but also the fundamental imbalances in our previously-negotiated free trade agreements.” However, every indication from the Administration so far has been of very narrow changes involving beef and automobiles, leaving the bulk of the flawed agreement as is.

In his quest to ship more American jobs overseas, President Obama is not afraid to go against a traditional ally of his Democratic Party, big labor. Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO said of KORUS FTA:

“This flawed agreement is the last thing working people need. With a fragile and incomplete economic recovery, and unemployment estimated to remain near 10 percent for the foreseeable future, we should not be putting in place new trade agreements that will speed up the offshoring of U.S. manufacturing jobs.”

As a candidate Senator Obama was critical of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed into law by his Democratic predecessor Bill Clinton in 1993. As U.S. Senator from Illinois he said he would vote against KORUS FTA. Now as President – and with a quarter of a century record of American job losses due to NAFTA and similar trade pacts – Mr. Obama offers us more of the same failed job-destroying policy. Candidate Obama promised change, but on the issue that most matters to working men and women of America – JOBS – he fails to deliver.

[David Trumbull is the chairman of the Boston Ward Three Republican Committee. Boston's Ward Three includes the North End, West End, part of Beacon Hill, downtown, waterfront, Chinatown, and part of the South End.]