Politics

Allies Jump as Washington's Free Trade Delay Continues

With President Obama touring the Midwest, and Congress out on recess, allies Canada and Colombia have entered a free trade agreement putting American businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

The U.S. has negotiated free trade pacts with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea, but they have yet to be ratified.

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, who is the Chairman of the House Trade Subcommittee, told Fox News, "With our economy struggling, we need new consumers - for our businesses, for our workers, for our farmers. But America has been off the trade field, and our competitors like Canada, like Europe, like China have moved very aggressively to take these new markets."

The practical impact is Canadian farmers can now sell their wheat to Colombia duty-free, while American farmers must pay a 13 percent tariff.

On Monday in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, President Obama told a Town Hall audience trade deals haven't always been good for the U.S., but said, "We've put together a package that is going to allow us to start selling some Chevys and Fords to Korea so that -- we don't mind having Hyundais and Kias here, but we want some ‘Made in America' stuff in other countries. That's something that Congress could do right now." The line was welcomed with applause.

But the reality is the Obama administration has not sent the documentation for the trade deals to Congress to ratify. And House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi speaking to the United Steelworkers Convention in Las Vegas Monday didn't sound like she was in a rush.

"If you want to bring those trade agreements to the floor of Congress," Pelosi told the Union audience, "you better be prepared first to let us bring our bill on China's manipulation of its currency which is unfair to America's workers."

What's been unfair to American exporters is the impact the free trade delay has had on their market share in some places.

For example, U.S. farmers provided the majority of Colombia's grains in 2008, but now that has dropped substantially to just percent of the market share due to trade pacts among other countries.

"We need these new sales in Korea, Colombia and Panama," Rep. Brady said. "13 billion dollars of new sales for American companies and workers, about 250 thousand new jobs tied to it, and every day we delay it harms our economy."

Experts like Bryan Riley from The Heritage Foundation say the U.S. must realize it is not the only game in town.

"South Korea has an agreement with the European Union in place. They are even talking about a trade agreement with China," Riley told Fox. "We risk really getting left behind and left on the sidelines as other countries realize they could move forward with other countries."

The three deals are expected to be ratified when Congress returns in September, but for American companies, farmers, and ranchers, the delay has hurt their bottom line.

Mike Emanuel currently serves as chief congressional correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in 1997 as a Los Angeles-based correspondent.