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| 12/22/2010 12:00:00 AM

Losing out in Latin America

At last, the Obama administration has cut a deal with South Korea, paving the way for congressional approval of a long-stalled free-trade agreement with that crucial Asian ally. Now, what about Colombia and Panama?

Alas, the administration's answer still appears to be "not yet." White House spokesman Robert Gibbs announced Friday that the president would not be submitting the Colombia or Panama free-trade deals to Congress anytime soon, ostensibly because they don't command majority support.

This is getting ridiculous. Both of these Latin American countries, longtime friends of the United States - in a region where it's not always easy to be America's friend - made tariff-slashing agreements with the Bush administration in late 2006. Thereafter, the deals languished because of objections from the Democratic Congress. In the case of Panama, the ostensible concerns were the presence of the alleged killer of an American soldier in Panama's national legislature and the lack of transparency in the country's banking and corporate-registry sectors. With a new government in power in Panama City since July 2009, those issues have been addressed. All that remains is to take advantage of new opportunities for U.S. exports in a small country with which the United States already enjoys a $4.5 billion annual trade surplus.
 
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