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White House urges Congress to ratify Korea free trade pact

WASHINGTON (Yonhap News) ― The Obama administration Tuesday urged Congress to quickly approve a free trade deal with South Korea despite demands that the deal be deliberated along with similar pacts with Panama and Colombia.

“We believe that Congress needs to move on these because they are job creators here in America,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said the Korea FTA will support more than 70,000 jobs and help double U.S. exports within five years as the world’s biggest economy struggles to escape the recession that began in late 2008, the worst in decades.

The International Trade Commission has estimated that the Korea FTA would annually add $10 billion to $11 billion to the U.S. GDP and roughly $10 billion to U.S. exports to Korea.

Carney expressed confidence that the revised deal with South Korea to address U.S. concerns over lopsided auto trade, the biggest hurdle to congressional approval, will get bipartisan support.

Seoul and Washington produced the supplemental deal in December to introduce a delayed phaseout of auto tariffs in return for Washington’s concessions on pork and medicine.

“What the president demonstrated in the way he negotiated the deal with Korea was that he does not believe trade deals are inherently the right thing to do,” Carney said. “They have to have provisions in them that protect American workers. He was willing to walk away from a deal, and by doing so, made sure that Americans got a better deal out of the process. So we feel very strongly that we should be able to move on these trade agreements.”

Some congressional Republicans threaten to block Obama’s nomination for Commerce Secretary Gary Locke’s replacement unless Obama sends to Congress the Korea FTA together with similar deals with Colombia and Panama. Locke has been appointed U.S. ambassador to China.

Locke will lead a bipartisan congressional delegation to Seoul Wednesday to build support for the ratification of the Korea FTA.

The delegation consists of five members of the House of Representatives, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Rep. David Reichert (R-WA) and Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI).
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