Obama to Push for Less Restrictive Trade with Russia; Expedited Pacts with Colombia, Panama

Fox News has learned that President Obama will call on Congress to support a permanent normal trade relations status with Russia and that his U.S. trade ambassador will tell Congress Wednesday the White House will intensify efforts this year to get it done.

PNTR is a Congressionally-approved designation given to countries that results in permanently lower tarriffs on goods from that country and removes some of the leverage the U.S. has in disputes. "...Our efforts to bring Russia into the World Trade Organization will include working with [Congress] this year to grant Russia Permanent Normal Trade Relations, so that U.S. firms and workers fully benefit from Russia's accession to the WTO," U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk will tell Congress Wednesday.

Kirk will also say in testimony that the president has asked him to step up talks with Panama and Colombia to address remaining issues that members have with the free trade agreements with those countries as soon as this year.

"[T]he president has directed me to immediately intensify engagement with Colombia and Panama with the objective of resolving the outstanding issues as soon as possible this year and bringing those agreements to Congress for consideration immediately thereafter," Kirk will say, according to excerpts released.

The president also plans to send the U.S.-Korea negotiated free trade deal to the Hill in the "next few weeks" for a potential Spring passage.

Mr. Obama isn't taking a large risk with the GOP on the Panama and Colombia deals, as some members have already urged quick action. In fact, some Republican members have stated they would like a quick sequence of votes on Korea, Panama and Colombia. However, given the timelines that Kirk will be suggesting, that isn't a path the administration is pursuing. After working out a deal with the Koreans late last year, the administration is anxious to get at least that agreement through Congress first.