On October 13th, the United States Congress approved new free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama, bringing down trade barriers between the U.S. and each of these three countries. Though some Democrats and labor leaders voiced opposition, the bills managed to pass with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, and were promoted as an opportunity to boost exports and create jobs. The agreements marked a victory for free trade, an issue which has seen little progress in the past four years. The last such arrangement to be passed was between the United States andPeru back in 2007. The acts are expected to significantly increase American sales in the countries involved; the agreement with South Korea alone, the largest market of the three, is expected to add between $10 and $11 billion dollars worth of American exports there per year, which the Obama administration hopes will support as many as 70,000 jobs in the U.S.
With the addition of the three new initiatives, the U.S.is now a free trade partner with a total of 20 countries through a patchwork of bilateral and regional agreements. Agreements with Korea, Columbia, and Panama had been negotiated under the former Bush administration, but until now had not found the support needed to become law. However, after languishing for years, renewed negotiations allowed Republicans and Democrats to overcome the stalemate. The deal was aided by the addition of a bill, passed on the same day, which offers ongoing assistance to workers displaced by the shift in trade. With the breakthrough on these negotiations, those hoping to unlock the potential of open markets can now focus on pursuing further agreements with other nations.