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Obama administration pushes trade timetable

By Dan Lothian, CNN White House Correspondent
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ambassador Ron Kirk to ask Congress to vote on the South Korea deal soon
  • He'll also push for resolution on similar deals with Colombia and Panama
  • Kirk is expected to build on the momentum from the Korea agreement last December

(CNN) -- The Obama administration is poised to lay down the most ambitious and definitive timeline on several key trade deals.

The president's point man on trade, Ambassador Ron Kirk, will ask Congress on Wednesday to vote on the South Korea agreement "this spring."

He'll also push for resolution on similar deals with Colombia and Panama "as soon as possible this year," according to Kirk, the United States Trade Representative.

In excerpts from prepared remarks to be delivered before the House Committee on Ways and Means, Kirk will say that "after extensive consultations with the business community, Labor and Congress, in December we concluded a U.S.-Korea trade agreement that is better for America's auto industry and better for America's auto workers. It is winning widespread support. To bring home its promise -- billions of dollars in exports and tens of thousands of jobs in America -- the president intends to submit the U.S.-Korea trade agreement to Congress in the next few weeks and looks forward to working with you to secure its approval this spring."

Kirk is also expected to build on the momentum from the Korea agreement reached last December to help advance similar deals with Colombia and Panama.

He'll testify that "with the same engagement and cooperation, we will work to address outstanding concerns relating to the Panama and Colombia trade agreements. If we are successful, we will move those forward as well. I can tell you today that the president has directed me to immediately intensify engagement with Colombia and Panama with the objective of resolving the outstanding issues as soon as possible this year and bringing those agreements to Congress for consideration immediately thereafter."

The White House has been touting its negotiation tactics in the Korea deal as an example of doing what's right instead of acting too quickly.

"We spent a lot of time working on that agreement to ensure that all of the stakeholders felt like it represented the best interests of this country," spokesman Robert Gibbs said this week.

He added, " We walked away from what would have been a nice PR hit in Seoul (during the G-20 in November) because we didn't think the agreement did what it needed to do for us -- only to come back and get an agreement that we thought was even better."

As the U.S. economy struggles to recover, the Obama administration has been looking to open up more overseas markets to American businesses and their products, something Republicans have been pushing for.

The goal is to create more U.S. jobs as well as help chip away at the nation's high unemployment rate.

 
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