Well, so much for Step One of President Obama’s plan to rebrand himself as a market-hugging, free trading, limited government kind of guy.
Obama’s effort to renegotiate George W. Bush’s free trade deal with South Korea failed today, as American officials were unable to find a way to let more U.S. cars and meat into the Korean market.
The South Korean government protects its auto market, and the South Korean people doesn’t want our meat, which they feel we are trying to, literally, ram down their throats.
The South Korean trade deal is no small matter.
It would be the biggest free trade agreement since NAFTA. It would unquestionably benefit both sides economically, but the politics aren’t caught up to the economics. Trade is suspect these days in the United States, and South Korean politicians can’t afford to be seen as kowtowing to the United States. And the ag and car industries are powerful, albeit parochial, voices over here.
It’s Obama’s job as president to get the thing done one way or another and then navigate the political perils and take a leadership role in selling it here. But instead, he came up with this whopper during a press conference today with South Korea’s president.
If we rush something that then can’t garner popular support, that’s going to be a problem.
Really? Like, you mean, say, transforming the entire U.S. economy with Obamacare? Where was the concern with garnering popular support then?
Obama says his big priority, now that he’s jammed the health care bill through Congress, is boosting the economy. If he’s for real, then he should take half loaf of Korean free trade – actually in this case much more than that – and live with the political consequences.
So Obama has tripped out of the gate in his sprint toward the business-friendly political center. It’s a sign he won’t be able to work his way over from the left.
He said it’s just a matter of a few details getting worked out before the Korea deal gets down.
We are crossing all the t’s, dotting all the i’s, being able to make the case to both the Korean people and the United States population that this is good for both countries.
Well, that’s a lot of nonsense. If it was just t’s and i’s, the haggling would have been finished in time to avoid the humiliation of the presidents of each country having to meet empty handed, without their fingers wrapped around those lovely signing pens.
And don’t expect to see an agreement soon. Without the pressure of a meeting between the two leaders lighting a fire under their asses, negotiators will go back to stalling, bluffing, and taking their sweet time about things.