Losing out on Trade; Obama's Union Pandering Carries a Price in Jobs and Economic Growth

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P resident Obama and congressional Democrats could give the economy a big boost if they wanted to. Trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama are being held hostage by the administration's insistence that a vote on the deals be tied to a retraining program that is little more than an expensive giveaway to the unions.

Treaties signed years ago sit unratified. American companies are losing out on billions of dollars of export opportunities that are being diverted to firms in Europe and elsewhere, further excluding the United States from the global market.

As our eighth-largest trading partner, South Korea represents the most important market among the three pending pacts. Implementing the agreement would boost our gross domestic product (GDP) an estimated $10 billion to $12 billion. While the Democrats wasted time pandering to Big Labor, the European Union inked a free-trade deal that took effect July 1. That means items made in London or Brussels can enter South Korea without paying a tariff, but corn from Iowa and beef from Montana would be hit with a 49 percent levy. Nobody will bother buying American goods when they are that much more expensive.

The Colombian and Panamanian deals are much smaller, but hardly trivial considering how much help the economy needs right now. All trade agreements with Colombia have expired, including the Andean Trade Preferences Act. Ratifying a free-trade deal with Colombia would add about $2.5 billion to the U.S. GDP, largely through the elimination of tariffs (some of which are around 70 percent) on U. …