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Global trade debate heats up in wake of Obama's Far East trip

November 16, 2010

In his first trip to Asia as U.S. president,  Barack Obama this month met with the leaders of Singapore, China, Japan and South Korea. While the administration has been reviewing U.S. trade policies since its inauguration, the American International Automobile Dealers Association contends that Obama’s "foggy" direction on global trade has frustrated businesses in the U.S. and in Asian markets.

The tour of Asia sparked a bipartisan group of 88 House members to convey to Obama their mounting concerns about his administration’s trade policy.

In a letter, spearheaded by two representatives from Washington—Democrat Adam Smith and Dave Reichert, a Republican—the group urged Obama to move forward on the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement.

South Korea’s is the world’s 13th largest economy, and the 88 congressmen want Obama to at least begin discussion with leaders in Seoul to resolve conflict over two contested portions of the pact: beef exports and the U.S. domestic auto industry’s access to Korea’s markets.

The European Union recently struck a deal with South Korea, all but xeroxing the U.S. agreement with the Asian country. The letter outlined some of the costs of not returning to the global economic race by saying a pact with Korea would be "the most economically beneficial trade agreement the United States has negotiated in 15 years."

The United States has three pending free trade agreements—with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea—that have been collecting dust since long before the Bush administration left town, which makes international trade proponents anxious over when, or if, the United States will take action. They fear inaction will leave the country behind.

The AIADA has echoed that concern by continuing to monitor the administration’s steps this year toward trade. The dealer association has long advocated the United States participating in the global economy.

The current domestic economic times can make it comfortable for people to want to shun the outside world, but the AIADA contends that protectionism is not the solution.

The economic environment has undergone serious change, and people’s attitudes and motives have changed with it. As the United States works its way out of an economic crisis, some Americans are growing more concerned about "protecting" the nation from international trade.

But the AIADA reports that an estimated 176,800 net U.S. jobs could be lost if other countries retaliate against "Buy American" provisions.

As the global trade debate gradually heats up, the AIADA’s Legislative Action Network will keep dealers informed. When the issue moves to Congress’s front burner, the L.A.N. will appeal to dealers to write to and call their congressmen.

The AIADA is committed to ensuring that the United States remains a valuable player in the global economy for the best interest and protection of international nameplate dealers and their manufacturers.

 

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