Jarrett: Korea FTA is first legislative priority in path to compromise

“First and foremost on the horizon, in terms legislatively, I think everyone is aware we reached an agreement with South Korea on the free trade agreement,” she said. “It is going to be vitally important to have that agreement approved by Congress.”

She said the administration will also look to get Congressional approval of the stalled pacts with Colombia and Panama to reignite the free trade agenda. The stalled Bush-era FTAs have long been a GOP priority.

While the agreements need to be sold to Democrats who are on record opposing the FTAs, Jarrett noted the support of the United Auto Workers for the renegotiated Korea deal.

“It the first time in a long time that you have had a union stand up and support a free trade agreement,” she said. The Obama administration was able to delay the phase-out in U.S. tariffs on Korean automotive imports as part of the December deal.

Jarrett said the next administration priorities will be to find a way to invest in infrastructure. She said that she sees room to compromise with the new House Republican majority on green energy, education and tax reform as well as trade.

On the budget deficit, Jarrett said the White House will examine the details of GOP proposals to bring 2011 spending back to 2008 levels, rather than rejecting the proposal outright.

“The devil is in the details,” she said.

She said the administration is concerned that early cuts could jeopardize the economic recovery so it will be examining the impact of all spending cut proposals.

The adviser said the administration believes it has momentum to find workable solutions with the GOP after the productive lame-duck session of Congress, which featured the tax cut compromise, the repeal of the military’s "Don’t ask, don’t tell" policy and the Senate ratification of the New START Treaty with Russia.

“There is nothing like success to breed success,” she said.