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Obama tells Congress: Pass Korea FTA

State of the Union address demands N.K. abandon nukes

WASHINGTON (AP) ― U.S. President Barack Obama highlighted America’s close ties with South Korea in his annual State of the Union policy speech Tuesday, praising South Korean progress and development and calling on Congress to ratify a newly negotiated trade agreement with Seoul.

“To help businesses sell more products abroad, we set a goal of doubling our exports by 2014 ― because the more we export, the more jobs we create at home. Already, our exports are up,” Obama said in his nationally televised speech to both chambers of Congress.

“Recently, we signed agreements with India and China that will support more than 250,000 jobs in the United States. And last month, we finalized a trade agreement with South Korea that will support at least 70,000 American jobs,” he said.

“This agreement has unprecedented support from business and labor; Democrats and Republicans, and I ask this Congress to pass it as soon as possible,” Obama said.

The South Korean trade deal was signed in 2007, as were deals with Colombia and Panama, but Congress has put off ratification, with Democrats claiming they don’t adequately address such issues as Korea’s restrictions on U.S. autos and beef. The United States and South Korea recently reached a deal to further open Korea’s auto market.
Barack Obama
Barack Obama

“Before I took office, I made it clear that we would enforce our trade agreements, and that I would only sign deals that keep faith with American workers, and promote American jobs. That’s what we did with Korea, and that’s what I intend to do as we pursue agreements with Panama and Colombia, and continue our Asia Pacific and global trade talks,” he said.

In his remarks on education, Obama told the lawmakers, “Let’s also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child’s success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom.

In South Korea, teachers are known as ‘nation builders,’ he said.

“Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones. And over the next ten years, with so many Baby Boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math,” Obama said.

He also pointed out South Korea’s rapid and continuing economic development, especially in electronic infrastructure:

“Our infrastructure used to be the best ― but our lead has slipped. South Korean homes now have greater Internet access than we do,” he noted.

Though Obama’s speech mainly dwelled on U.S. domestic matters, he linked two so-called rogue nations to the menace of nuclear proliferation.

“Because of a diplomatic effort to insist that Iran meet its obligations, the Iranian government now faces tougher and tighter sanctions than ever before. And on the Korean Peninsula, we stand with our ally South Korea, and insist that North Korea keeps its commitment to abandon nuclear weapons,” Obama said.

America still has more than 28,000 troops stationed in South Korea under post-Korean War agreements with Seoul to act as a trip-wire for deeper U.S. involvement if North Korea ever attempts to invade the South.