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Obama Stresses Need for Ratification of FTA

Posted February. 01, 2010 08:04,   


U.S. President Barack Obama has stressed the need to ratify the bilateral free trade agreement with Korea.

Speaking Friday at the House Republican retreat in Baltimore, Maryland, he said Korea is a great ally of the U.S. and Washington should seize the opportunity to expand bilateral trade before the European Union eats into the Korean market.

His comments raise hope for U.S. ratification of the deal in the run-up to the midterm U.S. elections in November.

Obama made the comments when a Republican lawmaker asked whether he was willing to pursue congressional ratification of free trade deals with Korea and Panama though Democrats are split over the issue.

It is considered rare for a sitting U.S. president to participate in a policy conference of an opposition party. The Republican Party invited Obama to the conference and Obama readily accepted.

The event was broadcast live on cable TV at Obama’s request.

“On the specific issue of trade, there are conflicts within and fissures within the Democratic Party. I suspect there are probably going to be some fissures within the Republican Party, as well,” Obama said. “My hope is that we can move forward with some of these trade agreements having built some confidence -- not just among particular constituency groups, but among the American people.”

These comments mark a departure from his previous criticism of Asian countries for engaging in unfair trade.

“Trade is going to be reciprocal; that it`s not just going to be a one-way street,” he said.

On Korea, he said, “There is no country that is more committed to friendship on a whole range of fronts than South Korea.”

“The EU is about to sign a trade agreement with Korea, the Europeans might get in there before we do,” he said. “So we`ve got to make sure that we seize these opportunities. I will be talking more about trade this year.”

“If we`ve got a trade agreement with China or other countries, that they are abiding with it -- they`re not stealing our intellectual property or making sure that their non-tariff barriers are lowered even as ours are opened up.”

Separately, Obama said in his State of the Union address Wednesday that the U.S. should strengthen trade ties with Korea, Panama, and Colombia to create two million jobs over the next five years through exports.