By Vicki Needham - 12/03/10 11:11 PM EST
The U.S. did secure concessions from South Korea on auto tariffs, the other major issue, and the revised deal won support of Ford Motor Co., previously the agreement’s most vocal opponent, as well as Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) the lead House Democrat on trade issues, who in a statement said the deal would help reverse a lopsided trade with South Korea on automobiles.
The Korean trade deal is also a priority for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups that have soured on Obama since he took office. Moving the deal through Congress gives the White House a pro-business item to try to complete before the 2012 presidential election year, and Chamber President Tom Donohue urged Congress to approve it.
Administration officials on Friday said the revised agreement offered a better deal for businesses and workers, and they expressed confidence it would win congressional passage. They emphasized that Obama had walked away from a deal offered in Seoul earlier this month that would not have been as generous to automakers or auto workers.
On autos, South Korea agreed to concessions demanded by U.S. automakers that will allow a 2.5 percent U.S. tariff on cars from Korea to remain in place for the first five years of the agreement. The deal negotiated by the Bush administration would have immediately eliminated the tariff, which had prompted Ford and Chrysler to oppose deal.
--Ian Swanson contributed to this story.