By Ian Swanson - 07/16/10 07:53 PM EDT
Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) has long opposed the South Korean trade deal negotiated by the Bush administration for fear it would hurt Michigan autoworkers, but the vehemence in his statement was notable.
In a press release headlined “Dingell denounces free-trade agreement with South Korea,” the Michigan lawmaker wrote that it made “absolutely no sense” to complete a deal that does not provide U.S. auto companies market access in South Korea but would allow Korean access to the United States.
President Obama gave new life to the South Korean trade deal last month, when at a meeting of the G-20 he announced the United States would seek to complete the deal by November. Obama indicated the U.S. would seek to change the legislation to meet the concerns of Dingell and other Democrats who say the agreement as structured would hurt the U.S. auto sector.
Business groups in recent weeks have hammered Obama’s economic agenda, accusing the president of being bad for business. They’ve pointed to his trade policy, arguing the United States has been sidelined while other countries are entering into new trade agreements that will help their domestic industries.
Chief executive officers from Microsoft, General Electric, Wal-Mart and several other companies wrote Obama this week to move quickly on the free-trade agreement. They warned that a deal the European Union and South Korea have signed will disadvantage U.S. companies.
Labor groups oppose the South Korean trade deal, along with two other agreements with Colombia and Panama. They argue the Korean deal would hurt U.S. workers and lead to the outsourcing of jobs.
House Democrats are also deeply divided over the three agreements.