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Obama goes East

November 18th, 2010

According to The New York Times, President Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak experienced a failure to communicate last Thursday in Seoul. Obama was on a 10-day diplomatic trip to Asia and had high hopes of signing a free-trade agreement with South Korea which would send American cars and beef to the Far East.  Both Presidents are still anticipating that a treaty will be inked in a matter of weeks, but this setback does not instill confidence in those Americans looking for work.

In the midst of a recession, American business leaders are attempting to expand into the global economy. The agricultural sector in the U.S. would benefit from sending beef to Asia, but since the mad cow disease scares, domestic beef has not seen high export rates.  This treaty would potentially create more jobs for Americans in the auto industry, a sector heavily affected by the economy’s hard times. South Korean officials are vowing to enforce even more stringent fuel efficiency qualifications than those in the U.S. on any American-made automobiles. This did not sit well with American auto manufacturers.

Obama’s trip to Asia was supposed to be a positive step toward improving the U.S. economy by boosting our position in the global marketplace. One of the major goals of the current administration is to double exports during the next five years. Many believe that our economy cannot thrive without significant increases in exports.

India and China are the major players in the world economy today. When the U.S. and other global economies were in a deep recession in 2009, China was still enjoying strong economic growth.  Americans desperately want to be optimistic about the future. The Obama administration contends that the deal with the South Koreans has potential.

The Ford Motor Company is the largest voice of opposition. Ford has backed trade agreements from Washington for 45 years, but drew the line here. They argue it will likely create more jobs in South Korea than in the U.S.  They claim that the agreement in its current form does not do enough to open up markets for U.S. manufacturers and will eventually lead to job losses.

This treaty may be finalized soon, but a Republican Congress majority may make this difficult.

This trip to the Far East did not help further Obama’s recent mission to improve his relationship with big business.