The KORUS FTA was a tough enough sell for the Democrats, whose union supporters worry more about a flood of Korean goods coming to America than the opportunity to sell more American goods to South Koreans. But suck it up they did.
With Colombia and Panama, where wages are far less than in South Korea, it may be tougher to get the unions to bite. And true to his relationship with Big Labor and his support of their interests, President Obama has said he will not seek Congressional approval of the three free trade agreements until Republicans agree to his demands to expand assistance for American workers who might lose jobs as a result.
From the New York Times:
President Obama has made the three deals a focus of his foreign and economic policy, but the Monday ultimatum reflects the political difficulty of advancing the deals in the face of high unemployment and opposition from parts of the Democratic base.While these deals may be good in the aggregate, there are some folks who are hurt far more, in the form of job losses that never come back, than they are helped with cheaper and/or better quality goods. While Obama's position may be pandering to a base he needs to come out in full force in November 2012, I'd like to think it's a good thing to be helping people get back on their feet if in fact they do lose their jobs as a result.
“This administration believes that just as we should be excited about the prospect of selling more of what we make around the world, we have to be equally firm about keeping faith with America’s workers,” said Ron Kirk, the United States trade representative.