On August 15 the Washington Trade Daily reported:
In multiple speeches . . .the President has made the same call on Congress to send him the free trade agreements – as though their fate is completely out of his hands. His comments may just be about making Republicans look bad, but it appears that at least some in the White House really don’t know how the “fast track” process works – or where the FTAs are in the process.
That became clear [on August 12] when White House Spokesman Josh Earnest – in response to a question about why the President keeps telling Congress to move the FTAs when he hasn’t submitted them – asked “Have we not sent them over?” The official White House transcript of the daily briefing notes that Mr. Earnest’s question prompted laughter. . . .
And that brings us right back to President Obama. If the FTAs are so important to US economic growth – as the President keeps saying – surely, he will submit them next month as soon as Congress returns from its summer break. . . . [But] President Obama kicked off a three-day bus tour of the Midwest focused on the economy by once again telling Congress to pass the FTAs, saying “that’s something that Congress could do right now.”
The White House game-playing has not gone unnoticed. House and Senate Republicans have made clear that nothing can be done until the deals are submitted. Today, in his memo touting pro-jobs measures, House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virg.) brings it up as well: “As he has promised in the past, we expect the President to transmit three vitally important trade agreements this fall. When he finally sends them our way, I will not hesitate to schedule them.”
The communications director for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is also calling attention to this editorial, originally published in the Kansas City Star, which reads: “The real problem is squabbling over the level of aid under a program for workers displaced by foreign competition. Democrats seek to keep spending at elevated levels, while Republicans want to scale back to earlier levels. Surely this issue could be handled separately while Congress moves on the three trade deals, which were all signed before Obama came into office.”
Unfortunately, while Obama dithers the U.S. is losing market share. (“Colombia’s ambassador to the United States, Gabriel Silva Lujan,” says the editorial, “notes that U.S. farmers once claimed 46 percent of Colombia’s food import market. Now the proportion is 20 percent — and likely to go lower. A free trade pact between Colombia and Canada, another big wheat exporter, went into effect last week.”)
In truth, Obama could have sent the trade deals up at any time in the last two and a half years. That he has not suggests he prefers playing politics over offending his Big Labor donors.