By Mark Kleis
Thursday, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 4:09 am
 
A new trade deal that has been in the works since President Bush was in office has finally passed both the House and the Senate, largely with Republican support - after being presented to Congress by president Obama.

The new deal actually includes trade deals with three nations - Colombia, Panama and South Korea - and is intended to help open trade between those countries and the U.S., with special changes aimed specifically at aiding U.S. automakers in Korea, according to CNNMoney.

"I've fought to make sure that these trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama deliver the best possible deal for our country, and I've insisted that we do more to help American workers who have been affected by global competition," said President Obama about the deal.

Despite President Obama, the U.S. agriculture industry, U.S. automakers, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and most Republicans in the House and Senate supporting the deal, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid didn't see things quite the same way, "I don't favor these bills, but the majority of this Senate does, so it was important that we move forward."

Groups opposed to the deals include many union groups and Public Citizen, a watchdog group that says the deals will lead to U.S. trade deficits by opening the door for more imports while setting the table for minimal changes to exports.

Criticism also comes from analysts that point out that South Korea's currency is believed to be undervalued by about 10 percent, giving them a two-way benefit in any trade deals - something unaddressed in the deal passed yesterday.

One of the deal's biggest supports, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, saw the deal as a win that will "directly help some 30,000 small and mid-sized [U.S.] exporters."

While the deal is set to open the borders for U.S. automakers to export more vehicles to South Korea, what isn't changed is the fact that the South Korean market has historically been one of the most closed markets in the world, with consumers strongly preferring Korean products.

Even if tariffs are reduced, consumer tastes are unlikely to quickly follow suit - potentially resulting in a trade benefit to Hyundai-Kia for vehicles they export to the U.S.

References
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