After languishing for nearly five years, the free trade agreements between the United States and South Korea, Panama, and Colombia were finally ratified by Congress, last night. Bloomberg reports:
The South Korea deal would boost American exports by as much as $10.9 billion in the first year in which it’s in full effect, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission. The accord with Colombia would increase exports as much as $1.1 billion a year. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the accords will prevent the loss of 380,000 jobs.
Though some estimates are slightly lower, that’s quite impressive — perhaps President Obama has begun to recognize that free trade, at least with certain nations, can create far more jobs than federal government intervention — and rather than raising the federal deficit, it will reduce our trade deficit.
Obama had refused to send the acts to Congress, where Democrats had opposed them because of some legitimate concerns about the loss of union jobs, and less logically, violence against trade unionists in Colombia. Colombia is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for, well, everyone, union and non-union, and one of America’s closest allies anyway. The most prominent opponent of the agreements was the AFL-CIO, but several prominent unions, including the UAW, were actually strong supporters, because their industries will benefit. In order to pass the acts, Republicans had to agree to an extension of a program which provides retraining and benefits to workers who lose their jobs to off-shoring.