Suddenly things seem to be happening in the U.S.
A week ago, Assistant USTR Danny Sepulveda said the USTR's Office hoped the trade agreement with Korea could be approved by Congress without renegotiation: USTR aims to preserve Seoul trade pact.
On the 20th, Ron Kirk, the U.S. Trade Representative, announced plans to review the Columbian and Panamanian agreements with a view to submitting them to Congress: USTR's Kirk: Will Start Review Of Colombia FTA Immediately:
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced plans Monday to immediately start reviewing the Colombia and Panama free trade agreements to resolve the outstanding issues before the deals can be submitted for a vote in Congress.
Kirk, speaking to reporters on a call to discuss the Summit of the Americas conference over the weekend...
...the administration has said it would like to address some shortcomings in the Colombia and Panama deals before sending them up to Congress for passage.
Kirk cited "remarkable progress" in reducing violence in Colombia, but said a number of issues still need to be resolved that he plans to discuss with Colombia and congressional leaders.
For Panama, the remaining issues revolve around international labor standards and of the country "possibly being a tax haven," he said.
Doug Palmer covers the same ground for Reuters: Kirk to consult with Congress on Colombia trade.
Also on the 20th, Senators Max Baucus and Charles Grassley (Chair and ranking minority member of the crucial Senate Finance Committee) pointed to the security benefits of the Korea trade agreement to the U.S.: Baucus and Grassley letter:
North Korea’s April 5 launch of a three‐stage Taepo‐dong 2 missile and recent statements that
it will resume its nuclear program demonstrate yet again the threat that North Korea poses in
the northeast Asian region. These are only the latest in a long history of provocative actions.
In the face of this threat, it is vital that the United States maintain and expand its strong and
proven partnership with the Republic of Korea....
As the United States and Korea seek to defuse security threats for the sake of our nations’
safety, so too must we work to resolve bilateral economic issues for the sake of our common
The greatest challenge and opportunity in our bilateral economic relationship is the pending
U.S.‐Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA)....
On the other hand:
Clearly, there is further work to be done if Congress is to support the agreement. In particular,
Korea has yet to ensure U.S. beef exporters full access to its market in accordance with
international standards. Korea’s long history of non‐tariff barriers to its autos sector also raises
serious concerns with some regarding the agreement. Postponing addressing such issues will
not make them easier to resolve.