Thursday, February 03, 2011

White House, key senator in standoff over South Korean trade deal

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has a beef with the South Korean trade deal, and it could hurt President Obama's prospects for winning quick approval of the pact. The U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement is a key item on Obama's job-creation agenda, as his chief of staff reiterated Wednesday. "We want Korea," William M. Daley told reporters at a breakfast organized by Bloomberg News. But Baucus, whose committee oversees trade issues, is siding with cattle ranchers from his home state who were shut out of the deal. He has pledged opposition until South Korea reconsiders restrictions on the many U.S. beef exports it has barred. Baucus's stand is a major obstacle to the White House and Republicans who are eager to bring the long-delayed pact to the Senate floor. Baucus has not said whether he will merely vote against the agreement or will use the full force of his authority as finance chairman to block it indefinitely. The senator said he is working behind the scenes with U.S. trade officials to tweak the agreement to ensure Montana ranchers get a better deal. "When I see that, I'll support Korea," Baucus said...more

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