Well, we know who really runs this administration. Obama & Co. have backed away from their professed support for the Free Trade Agreement with Panama. Reports Bloomberg News :
U.S. officials said they will delay seeking congressional approval for a pending free-trade deal with Panama until President Barack Obama offers a new "framework" for trade.
The administration, which in March said it would move quickly to pass the trade agreement with Panama, wants to outline how trade fits with other priorities such as assistance for unemployed workers and health care, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Everett Eissenstat said today.
"It's clear that trade agreements in the last few years have been much too divisive," Eissenstat told the Senate Finance Committee. "We want to make sure that Panama doesn't contribute to that divisiveness."
Panama is the first of the three pending free-trade agreements the Obama administration has said it wants Congress to consider. Trade between the U.S. and Panama was $5.5 billion in 2008, and the U.S. is Panama's largest trading partner. A delay for Panama may also postpone accords with Colombia and South Korea.
Eissenstat's comments follow remarks by John Sweeney, the head of the AFL-CIO labor federation, that unions would oppose a rush to ratify the deal. The Panama accord was signed in 2007 and was viewed as the least controversial of three trade agreements reached by President George W. Bush and pending congressional approval.
If the "least controversial" agreement isn't going anywhere, forget the pacts with Colombia and South Korea. China already is trading more with the South than is the U.S. But Congress apparently doesn't care if Beijing further entrenches itself in East Asia while American influence wanes.
Organized labor certainly isn't hesitant about telling everyone who is calling the shots. Exults the AFL-CIO :
BREAKING: President Obama has delayed moving the Panama trade deal because of union objections. Read more here .
Congress should not consider the U.S.-Panama trade agreement until Panama implements labor law and tax reforms and the Obama administration lays out a comprehensive, principled trade strategy for the United States.
Testifying before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee today, AFL-CIO Policy Director Thea Lee said the union movement will oppose the Panama deal unless these issues are resolved.
Of course, even if Panamanian law was up to international standards, whatever that means for an impoverished developing nation, labor would oppose the FTA. Unions oppose competition irrespective of other nations's labor laws.
We have just entered month five of the administration. Wait till the president's popularity starts to droop. He will have to embrace the Democratic special interests even more tightly, irrespective of the public interest.