President Barack Obama announced Friday that the United States and South Korea have reached an agreement on a revised trade deal that he hopes will clear the path for Congressional approval in the coming months.
"I am very pleased that the United States and South Korea have reached agreement on a landmark trade deal," Obama said.
The White House released documents Friday promoting the pact, saying it would create tens of thousands of jobs, generate an additional $11 billion in U.S. exports, provide new opportunities for U.S. manufacturers by eliminating tariffs, tighten Korean environmental standards for automobiles and make progress in implementing a protocol on beef exports.
Obama failed during a trip to Asia last month to reach a deal on the agreement, which is one of three pending trade deals left over from the Bush administration. White House officials said Friday that negotiations over the past few weeks addressed key concerns relating to the automotive sector and beef exports.
“It is a strong, balanced package. It is a win-win, both for Koreans and for Americans,” a senior administration official said during a conference call with reporters. “We think it’s especially a win, perhaps even a historic win, for American trade policy because we think we’ve put together a package that business, labor, Democrats and Republicans can feel comfortable in supporting.”
Asked about the timing of Congressional action on the pact, the official said the “expectation is to bring it forward as soon as we can.” The official said that administration officials began calling lawmakers Friday morning to let them know of the deal and that the response so far has been “very positive.”
Trade is one area where the president can expect to find bipartisan support in Congress. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the Korean pact is “an important step for our economy and for getting people back to work,” and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the deal “helps strengthen our ties to a dependable democratic ally that fosters prosperity and stability in Asia and enhances our economic and national security.”
Leaders of the 69-member New Democrat Coalition, which supports business interests, hailed the agreement for giving American exporters access to millions of new customers.
“We applaud the significant step taken today to expand export opportunities for U.S. companies and cut down the trade barriers imposed on our automakers,” reads a statement by Rep. Joe Crowley (N.Y.), the coalition’s chairman; Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.), a coalition vice chairman; and Rep. Jim Moran (Va.), a coalition member.
Auto manufacturers and trade interest groups also lined up to praise the president for finalizing the agreement.
“These new provisions provide Ford greater confidence that we will be able to better serve our Korean customers,” Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally said. “We deeply appreciate the tireless efforts of the Obama administration.”
National Foreign Trade Council President Bill Reinsch said the trade agreement “has long been a policy priority of the U.S. business community, and the NFTC commends U.S. and Korean negotiators’ commitment to resolving market access issues with respect to autos.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.