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What the three new US FTAs portend

Business Times - 18 Oct 2011


What the three new US FTAs portend

Given Democratic opposition, Obama is likely to shelve any fresh foreign trade initiatives until after the 2012 elections

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

PROPONENTS of global trade liberalisation in Washington and elsewhere are cheering the passage of three long- delayed free-trade agreements (FTAs) in the US Congress last week. The FTAs with South Korea, Colombia and Panama are the first such agreements since 2007, and the deal with South Korea (the world's 15th-largest economy) is regarded as the most important trade agreement since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) in 1994.

The good news is that all three deals gained some bipartisan support, which allowed them to pass by wide margins. In the House of Representatives, the Colombia FTA passed by a vote of 262 to 167, the Panama deal passed 300 to 129, and the South Korean measure by a margin of 278 to 151. The Senate saw similarly larg…